By Reynard Magtoto
In a voting decision of 13-5 after the executive session today, September 6, the Commission on Appointments (CA) officially rejected the confirmation of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “ Ka Paeng” Mariano as DAR chief.
Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), broad alliance of peasants in Eastern Visayas, stated that the rejection of Ka Paeng’s appointment as DAR Sec is not, and will never be, equal to the farmer movement’s downfall.
“No rejection of any demand or call will stop the farmers all over the country from surging the streets, occupying their land, breaking the land monopoly, and advancing their struggle,” the alliance stated.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said 13 members voted against the confirmation of Mariano. Prior to this, his confirmation on August 30 and September 5 were deferred for the CA to “process and digest” information and issues.
Sotto also serves as chairman of the CA committee on agrarian reforms.
Ka Paeng is the fourth official in the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte to be rejected and the last left-leaning Cabinet member to undergo scrutiny by the CA.
According to SAGUPA-SB, Ka Paeng was known as one of the leftist cabinet members under the current administration – not because he was appointed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) themselves but because, just like them, he is for free land distribution and national industrialization.
Unlike the past agrarian reform head officers, Ka Paeng maximized his position in the bureaucracy to impose orders in favor of the farmers. To defend and assert farmers’ rights through the creation of three major task forces – National Land Acquisition and Distribution Team, National Task Force for Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Installation and National Task Force Against Illegal and Premature Conversion of Agricultural Lands – was the thrust his office upheld.
Under Ka Paen’s time as DAR secretary, land use conversion program was suspended and a part of the Hacienda Luisita has been finally awarded to the farmers.
The agrarian reform office from the national up to municipal levels saw the importance of partnering with the local people’s organization during his time.
Because of his advocacy, the government-ran agrarian reform office also supported and pushed for the passage of the bill that will implement free land distribution – House Bill 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.
Ka Paeng even assured to address farmers’ immediate needs and he could have implemented a hundred more.
Ka Paeng’s rejection gives the alliance of peasants an idea of how the 1% of the population in the country, the landlords, use their political power to maintain their economic power and vice versa.
“And now we get to connect the series of events: informal termination of peace talks just in time for the possible signing or agreement of free land distribution, intensifying fascism against the farmers and activists, and Taguiwalo and Mariano’s rejection. The wealthiest and most politically powerful individuals in the country, along with their masters in the US, will never favor the poor, the oppressed and the exploited,” SAGUPA-SB added.
Peasants strongly condemn the members of the CA for the farmer-leader’s rejection as DAR Sec. Ka Paeng’s service as Agrarian Reform Sec ends today, but the struggle for a genuine agrarian reform program continues according to them.
Peasants nationwide extend their warmest congratulations to Ka Paeng and the whole peasant movement in the country who didn’t fail to register their calls and demands to the public. In the next days, Ka Paeng will still be with them in the streets and picket lines – probably in front of his former office – rallying against the anti-farmers program. (BaretangBikolnon.com)