CA defers Mariano’s confirmation


THE COMMISSION on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed the promotions of four military officers while suspending the hearings on Rafael V. Mariano’s confirmation as Agrarian Reform Secretary until Tuesday next week.

Senate President and Commission on Appointments Chair Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III with newly promoted military officers. — CESAR TOMAMBO/SENATE

The hearings were reset following allegations by one of those opposed to Mr. Mariano’s appointment that he supported violent protests against certain property owners.

Mr. Mariano, a former party-list congressman, has been repeatedly bypassed this year. He is one of four Cabinet members appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte from the Left. In the course of his watch over the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) he has implemented such orders that became subject to controversy as the placing of 727 hectares of Hacienda Luisita under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“Because there are numerous oppositors hindi natin puwede madaliin. We have to listen to each one. And the point of Senator (Gregorio B.) Honasan, maliwanag na ito pa lang isang oppositor pa lang, nag-ooverload kami sa issues on agrarian reform,” said CA Assistant Majority Floor Leader, Senator Vicente C. Sotto III. (We can’t hasten the proceedings because there are numerous oppositors. And the point of Senator Honasan, it is clear that even with just one oppositor, the issues are far too many. We’re already overwhelmed by the issues on agrarian reform.)

He also added that the committee would have preferred it if Mr. Mariano had given direct answers. “Sinasabi nila na hinihintay nila ‘yung direct na sagot. Anong payong mabibigay sa gumagawa ng ganun, sa pumapasok,” Mr. Sotto said. (They are saying that they would have preferred it if he had given direct answers to such questions as what would he do with trespassers.)

One such oppositor, Maria Teresa P. Gallego, who represented her father, Manuel O. Gallego, Jr. of the Hacienda Gallego cattle ranch, cited an incident on Oct. 1 last year, when 250 persons with bolos, machetes and other weapons attempted to take over their land and build homes there. She said the trespassers came from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson-Nueva Ecija (AMGL-NE). Mr. Mariano was a chairman of KMP.

Ms. Gallego further accused the DAR secretary of providing cover to land grabbers and being biased against landowners.

In response, Mr. Mariano said that the incident was initiated by the farmers. “Yung incident na yun ay sa initiative ng mga magsasaka. Yun nga po ang inaaral ng DAR, at yung naman ay may remedy naman po, na available either administrative or judicial remedies,” he said. (The incident was initiated by the farmers. DAR is still conducting an investigation and there are remedies for such cases, either administrative or judicial remedies.)

During an interview by reporters after the hearing, Mr. Mariano said in part: “We do exercise the mandate of the department and its functions within the bounds of the law and under the rule of the law. At ‘yun po yung tingin kong hinihingi nilang malinaw na sagot ko.” (We do exercise the mandate of the department and its functions within the bounds of the law and under the rule of the law. And that is what I think the committee wanted to hear.)

He also said DAR is open to dialogue and consultations with all stakeholders.

Mr. Sotto, for his part, said that among those opposed to Mr. Mariano’s appointment are some farmers and stakeholders at Hacienda Luisita.

The committee aims to decide on Mr. Mariano’s appointment by Wednesday, Sept. 6.

The CA last Aug. 16 rejected the appointment of Judy M. Taguiwalo to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Ms. Taguiwalo is similarly affiliated with the Left.

Meanwhile the officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who found their promotions confirmed on their first CA hearing were Lt. Gen. Rafael Valencia, Maj. Gen. Casiano Monilla, Maj. Gen. Arnel Duco, and Brig. Gen. Fidel Igmedio Cruz, Jr. — Mario M. Banzon

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