The Palace statement of support for Left cabinet members is proof that trust is still intact according to DAR chief Rafael Mariano.
“We appreciate the President’s continued trust in us— representatives of the progressive Left movement in the cabinet,” Mariano said in a statement.
Mariano pointed out that the core foundation of unity with the Duterte administration is based on the principle of instituting socio-economic reforms, particularly genuine agrarian reform.
According to Mariano, free land distribution is a major component of the suspended peace talks between the GRP and NDF panels.
He further said that agrarian reform as an agenda in the peace negotiations has gone “one step forward toward peace” after the GRP and the NDF panels agreed on this section of the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms)—a document where the NDF proposes “genuine social and economic change for the people” to the Duterte government.
Free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform are also included in the Duterte administration’s Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 legislative agenda.
“As Agrarian Reform Secretary, the implementation of land reform during the first year of the Duterte administration have been very challenging,” Mariano said.
He added that the difficulty was largely brought about by big landlords who circumvent the law and legal processes to thwart the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Mariano disclosed that from July 2016 to June 2017, DAR had to address a total of 58,220 agrarian law implementation cases.
Of these, 27,981 agrarian reform cases were resolved and covered, including 209 dialogues within the same period.
He said the data revealed the “true state of agrarian reform in the country. Farmers are still wallowing in poverty and landlessness. And landlords are using the courts to subvert DAR’s mandate.”
Mariano said that President Duterte has acknowledged this practice of big landlords when he met with MARBAI farmers of Lapanday Foods, Inc., adding that the President told the courts “to stop issuing Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) against farmers and the DAR” on the matter of land distribution.
Based on initial findings by DAR, Mariano said a significant number of farmer-beneficiaries have also been duped by laws governing agrarian reform. He said schemes like SDO (stock distribution option) and AVA (agribusiness venture agreements) have made the implementation of agrarian reform by past administrations flawed and anti-farmer.
In 2016, DAR through the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) canceled two SDO schemes— Wuthrich Hermanos, Inc. (WHI) and Serafin Villanueva Jr. Farms, Inc. (SVJFI) and one lease contract under an AVA between the Marsman Estate Plantation, Inc. (MEPI) and the Davao Marsman Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Development Cooperative (DAMARBDEVCO).
Senator Antonio Trillanes last week said that the three Left leaning secretaries—Rafael Mariano of DAR, Judy Taguiwalo of DSWD and Liza Maza of NAPC, should be axed by the President after he made an announcement to cancel the peace talks.
“We will continue to use our time pursuing genuine land reform than answering the baseless accusations of a right-wing insurgent masquerading as a concerned lawmaker,” Mariano said.
Trillanes was known for leading the failed 2003 Oakwood mutiny, along with some 300 junior officers and enlisted men of the AFP. He was also part of the Manila Peninsula siege which resulted in the arrest of some journalists and media personalities.
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