QUEZON CITY (May 23, 2017)—Various groups and the employees of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) gathered today in front of the DAR to express support for the confirmation of the appointment of DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano.
Organized by the DAR Employees Association (DAREA) headed by Antonia Pascual, the gathering brought together farmers groups, youth groups, women’s groups and other advocates supporting the confirmation of Mariano who has been bypassed last week for the third time.
Mariano’s friends and allies held a pep rally to ask for support from the public for his confirmation from the Commission on Appointments (CA) as Secretary of the DAR.
Despite the CA not greenlighting his appointment, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly expressed confidence and trust in him.
Proof of this is the President’s order for Mariano to return the 159 evicted farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) to the 145-hectare banana plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte.
Exactly 10 days after the President’s directive, Mariano successfully re-installed the farmers last May 18, with the help of the Philippine National Police.
Mariano said he fear for the safety of the farmers. “Although they are now installed in their farm lots, they are still in danger,” said Mariano.
“As long as I am able to, and within the boundaries of the law, I will continue to fight for farmer’s rights and welfare,” vows Mariano.
A true farmer-leader
As a farmer who experienced firsthand state neglect and inadequate government support, Ka Paeng expects nothing less than the ideal, merging practical solutions with programs that prioritize the welfare of farmers.
His contributions to the peasant movement as head of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) span years of tirelessly working on the streets as a mass leader. For almost 40 years, Ka Paeng has pushed for genuine land reform and national industrialization to address all forms of exploitation on the poor.
On his first day as DAR Secretary, he promised to rectify the policy mistakes of previous DAR administrations. He declared an “open-door policy” by removing the locks of the DAR Central Office gates which had been literally closed from dispossessed farmer-tenants for more than 18 years. Almost 9,000 farmers have been reached by DAR for consultations and dialogues in his first six months alone.
The DAR Chief was able to rally the support of President Duterte who finally convened the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC)—the highest policy and decision-making body for agrarian reform. The PARC has already met thrice in the past 10 months and has cancelled two stock distribution options (SDO) contracts in Negros and Davao.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, on Saturday said the presence of reformist personalities in the Duterte’s administration is a benefit for the government’s peace talks with communists.
“The inclusion in the Cabinet of Mariano, Taguiwalo and Lopez works well for the entire peace process because they are in a position to help push much-needed socio-economic reforms,” the NDF said.
Mariano sat down as a consultant of the Government of the Republic if the Philippines (GRP) during the fourth round of peace negotiations with the NDFP. With the promise to bring genuine agrarian reform close to realization, both panels agreed to use free land distribution to landless farmers as the guiding principle of agrarian in the country.
Mariano affirmed in the crafting of the Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) the provisions including free land distribution to farmers and the dismantling of land monopoly that involve thousands of hectares of agricultural lands.
The NDFP and the GRP are currently working on finalizing the Caser, one of the agreements that will lead the way for a final peace pact.
The NDF said Mariano, who was a known peasant leader before becoming a public official, “will play an important role in implementing the program of free land distribution for poor farmers and farm-workers in the country.”
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