THE powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) has rejected the ad interim appointment of Rafael Mariano as head of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Mariano was the fourth appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte who failed to get the approval of the bicameral panel composed of 12 senators and 12 representatives on Wednesday. The first two were former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay, environment secretary Regina Lopez, and social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
The President appointed Taguiwalo and Mariano to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) based on the recommendation of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Mariano underwent intense grilling from Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato about his alleged involvement in the attack by armed militant farmers on a banana plantation in Tagum City in April; his order temporarily banning the conversion of agricultural lands; and his directive to review all land conversion orders issued by previous secretaries of the DAR since 1988.
Sato read out a joint resolution of the Regional Development Council and the Regional Peace and Order Council issued on May 5, 217 “informing the Commission on Appointment of the involvement of some government officials, particularly the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform in the Lapanday incidents in Davao City.”
Mariano, former secretary general of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), denied any involvement in the attack of the banana plantation. He maintained that he never joined the New People’s Army (NPA).
He said that the councils’ allegation was “baseless, unfounded and malicious. He deplored that the RDC 11, RPOC 11, and even Lorenzana failed to get his side.
“Walang pasabi ang CA. Walang official transmittal. Walang nabanggit na magbigay ako ng aking sagot. Kung totoo na ako ay may direktang partisipasyon na kasama sa pagpa-plano sa pag-atake sa Lanpanday, kung may pruweba sana ay sampahan ako ng kaso. Ito ang proper venue para ako makasagot (The CA did not call my attention regarding this. There was no official transmittal. There was no advice for me to answer. If there is evidence that I was directly involved in the planning of the Lapanday attack, if there’s proof, they must file charges against me. This is the proper venue to allow me to answer the allegation),” he said.
She also said Mariano’s order to review actions of past DAR secretaries created “instability” in the implementation of laws and directives from the Executive Branch. Sen. Panfilo Lacson agreed with her.
Mariano admitted having ordered a ban, for two years, on land conversion to “preserve” agricultural lands and to ensure food security. He also confirmed that he sought a review of land conversion orders issued almost 30 years ago up to the previous Aquino administration to check the implementation of the development plan of the land covered by the directive.
During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Mariano assured the CA that he did not advocate illegal activities of militant farmer groups. “As secretary of DAR, I do no support, I do not endorse armed struggle.”
The RDC 11 and RPOC claimed that suspected NPA members attacked three business establishments and Task Force Davao (TFD).
These prohibited hostile acts resulted in the following: burning of two trucks of the Macondray Plastic Factory in Panabo City in Davao del Norte; burning of the Lapanday box plant in barangay Mandugm Buhangin district in Davao City; the burning of the house and vehicles of the Lorenzo family (owners of the Lapanday group of companies) at barangay Pangyan, Calinan District in Davao City; and IED (improvised explosive device) attack against TFD that conducted clearing operations at Barangay Tigatto, Buhangin District in Davao City while on their way to respond to the burning of the Lapanday box plant.
The two councils said that based on intelligence reports, “officials of the national government,” including Mariano, had been linked to the attacks on the Lapanday Group of Companies and the Lorenzo family on April 29, 2017 in Davao City and Panabo City in Davao del Norte.
“It was in fact suggested that the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines) peace panel recommend to the Office of the President to exclude these officials, particularly the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), from representing the government in the peace panel as they are reported have direct participation in the planning of the Lapanday incidents, thus, have betrayed the trust of the Office of the President,” the councils said.
The Joint Resolution was approved by Davao del Norte Governor Governor Anthony del Rosario, RDC 11 chair; Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy, RPOC 11 chair; Davao Occidental Governor Claude Bautista; Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio; Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon; Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; Armed Forces chief, Gen. Eduardo Ano; 10th Infantry Division chief, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia; and Lt. Gen.Rey Leonardo Guerrero, AFP Eastern Mindanao chief.