“(Agrarian Reform Sec Rafael) Mariano has made impressive pronouncements and policies in favor of poor farmers struggling to own their lands legitimately.” – Most. Rev. Rolando J. Tria Tirona
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The bicameral Commission on Appointments suspended the hearing on the confirmation of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano yesterday.
Thousands of farmers trooped to the Senate building in Pasay City to show their support to Mariano, the first farmer in Philippine history to be appointed as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
The DAR Employees Association and third-level DAR officials all over the country staged rallies yesterday in support of Mariano.
Members of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) travelled all the way from Quezon, Laguna, Battings, Rizal, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos and Caraga region to urge the CA tto confirm Mariano. KMP chapters in Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Masbate, Camarines Norte, Cagayan de Oro, Leyte and Davao also held protest actions.
Mariano also has the backing of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) as well as the Diocesan Social Action Centers (DSACs) of the Catholic Church.
In a statement, NASSA Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez and National Director Most. Rev. Rolando J. Tria Tirona said that Mariano “has made impressive pronouncements and policies in favor of poor farmers struggling to own their lands legitimately.”
In his short stint at the DAR, NASSA said Mariano installed numerous farmers to their lands, and has encouraged Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) to be firm in protecting their acquired lands amid challenges of resistance, obstructions and even harassment against them.
“From our experience working with Mariano in the past year we are convinced that he is the best person to lead DAR,” NASSA said. “Thus he should be formally confirmed based on his qualification, experience, track record and his commitment to landless farmers.”
Landlords’ ‘minions’ vs Mariano
So far, ten oppositions have been filed against the confirmation of Mariano. These include:
• Joint sworn opposition of Noel A. Mallari and others
• Sworn opposition of Manuel O. Gallego Jr.
• Sworn opposition of Ricardo V. Quintos
• Joint sworn opposition of Rodel Mesa and Angelito Bais
• Joint sworn opposition of Roberto Nidera and others
• Resolution of Barangay Sta. Catalina in Tarlac City, Tarlac
• Resolution of Barangay Asturias in Tarlac City, Tarlac
• Resolution of Barangay Motrico in La Paz, Tarlac
• Sworn opposition of Edgar V. Aguas
• Joint sworn opposition of Manolito B. Dagatan and Hernani P. Geronimo
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) said these are “minions” of Cojuangcos-Aquinos and the Lorenzos.
The Lorenzos who own Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) in Mindanao are now the majority owners of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT). They also own two subsidiaries of CAT, namely Luisita Land Corp. (LLC) and Agrikulto Inc.
Mariano junked the Tarlac Development Corporations (Tadeco) appeal to exempt 358 hectares from land reform and the revocation of the conversion order of Luisita Realty Corp. (now LLC), Luisita Park Inc. (LIPCO) and RCBC for failure to develop the lands covered by the conversion order within five years from the date of the said order.
Bais and Mesa were former leaders of Ambala who eventually went to the side of Cojuangco-Aquinos.
According to UMA and Ambala, Nidera and the barangay council of Sta. Catalina were involved in the violent ejection of farmers who had been tilling 104 hectares of land being claimed by Tadeco.
Aguas, meanwhile, the barangay chairman of Barangay Central, received P3.5 million from former President Benigno Aquino III’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds. Aguas is also a stockowner of CAT and one of the all alleged brokers of the aryendo or leasehold system to so-called dummies of the Cojuangcos-Aquinos-Lorenzos.
Dagatan and Geronimo are both officials of Lapanday Foods Corp. who had defied Mariano’s earlier decisions to install the MARBAI farmers to their lands being held by LFC, according to UMA.
In a separate statement, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao said, “If Duterte abandons Ka Paeng, he would be on the same side of the fence with the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos against poor farmers.”
Mariano, like former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, was nominated by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to Duterte’s cabinet. Taguiwalo was rejected by the CA last week.