The Progressive Bloc in the Lower House is up in arms after the Commission on Appointments refused to confirm another one of their own—Rafael Mariano as Agrarian Reform Secretary. Yet, the makabayan bloc still has to think about breaking away from their alliance with the Duterte Administration.

Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao slammed the rejection of Mariano) and declared that the apparent consent of the President Duterte to the decisioni is his “calamitous and grave mistake” as he sealed off any prospect for fundamental reforms almost half of the population could look forward into.

“If the tens of millions of farmers do not see an ally within the Duterte cabinet, it would akin to past regimes who upheld the interests of the rich landlords and oligarchs, as well, as foreign monopoly, so there is no basis for the marginalized sector to approve of his presidency,” Casilao said in a statement.

The lawmaker said that Mariano’s post is crucial to the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as well as the legislation of a genuine agrarian reform program via free distribution of land, as provisioned in House Bill No. 555 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). Ironically, Casilao wants the President to use the powers of his presidency to influence the CA to confirm the appointment of one of their own despite the separation of powers. “We don’t buy the ‘this-is-a-democratic-process’ rubbish, as the president could effortlessly demand his ‘allies’ to confirm Ka Paeng, as their contribution to his agenda for inclusive governance and for fundamental reforms in the country, hence, the buck simply stops with the president,” Casilao said.

For Gabriela Party List, “This is a clear indication that the Duterte administration has no intent to pursue free land distribution and that it now turns its back on genuine agrarian reform, favoring landlords and oligarchs. Indeed, the Duterte during campaign is different from the elected Duterte. GWP shall continue to fight with the farmers to push for Genuine Agrarian Reform and support all efforts to reclaim the land grabbed from farmers.”

ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Rep. France Castro scored the rejection by the Commission on Appointments of the appointment of agriculture secretary Rafael Mariano, saying that interests of landowners, oligarchs, and the military against genuine land reform were behind the rejection.

“Another progressive was kicked out of the Duterte administration. Or should we say, President Duterte allowed the CA, which is dominated by his allies, to kick Ka Paeng out, very much like what happened with Judy Taguiwalo,” said Tinio. “There could be no other who is qualified to lead the DAR towards genuine agrarian reform, yet the CA rejected him for baseless accusations of links to the rebel movement.”

“Ka Paeng’s ordeal in the CA is a depiction of the ordeal of his landless constituents: A farmer was pitted against big landowners and oligarchs,” Castro added. “It is disappointing that President Duterte has taken the side of the latter. Nilaglag si Ka Paeng at mga magsasakang umaasa sa repormang agraryo na pinangako ng presidente. Sa pagkawala ni Ka Paeng sa gabinete ni Presidente Duterte, nawala na rin ang pag-asa na magkakaroon ng agrarian justice sa loob ng termino niya.”

“Ka Paeng was the only farmer-leader appointed to a top position in government. He was the only DAR Secretary who literally and figuratively opened the gates of DAR to landless farmers and peasants. In his 14 months of service, he proved his sincere and resolute commitment to advance the basic right of farmers to the land they till,” said Castro.

The solons noted that Mariano has long been a steadfast advocate of genuine land reform. Through his lobbying, free land distribution was inserted into the Philippine Development Plan of the Duterte administration. He argued for a moratorium on land use conversion, to preserve agricultural lands for food security and farmers’ protection. He also staunchly supported the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms which pursues genuine land reform and national industrialization as long-term and effective solutions to the roots of the armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“With Ka Paeng at the helm, DA resolved from July 2016 to July 2018 27,981 agrarian law implementation cases involving 12,292 farmers, installing farmers even in prominent agrarian cases such as Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and Lapanday Foods Inc. in Davao del Norte. We fear the displacement of farmers now that landowners emerged victorious in the CA,” added the solons. 

Mariano also advocated for national issues affecting the poor and the marginalized such as the increase in SSS pension. He condemned the human rights violations and extrajudicial killings of farmers continuing unabated even under President Duterte’s watch.

The solons said that while 29 national farmer organizations as well as religious and other groups expressed support for his confirmation, those who opposed his confirmation were landowners and their allies whose interests are hurt by Ka Paeng’s advocacies. The military, together with presidential daughter Mayor Sara Duterte, even alleged that he was “involved” in the attacks of the NPA against Lapanday on April 29. Sara’s husband and the president’s son-in-law Manases Carpio is lawyer for Lapanday.

Bayan Muna blames the US for the rejection, even if Duterte has had a confrontational relationship with the US. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate today labeled what happened to  Mariano  as a “brazen maneuver of pro-US militarists, landlords and neo-liberals” 

“The Duterte Cabinet is now overwhelmingly composed of rabid reactionaries,”

Zarate recalls that like the rejection of  another one of their own, Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD Chief , Mariano’s removal as DAR secretary would mean the people can no longer expect anything good from the Duterte government. ”Sa pagtanggal kay Ka Paeng sa DAR ay tuwang-tuwa ang mga panginoong maylupa at mga landgrabbers, samantalang malungkot ang mga magsasaka. Sa pangyayari pong ito, kasama ng pagtanggal din kay Prof. Judy sa DSWD, ay tila wala ng makabuluhang maasahan pa ang mamamayan sa  administrasyong Duterte. Babagal na naman po ang serbisyo sa DSWD at hindi na naman po ipapamahagi ang lupa sa mga magsasaka,” said the progressive solon.


Zarate  said that there would be an emergency Makabayan National Executive Committee meeting next week to assess the bloc’s membership with the majority coalition. 

With Taguiwalo and Mariano out of the cabinet, only National Anti Poverty Commission Chair Liza Maza remains. NAPC’s chief however does not go through CA review. on the sub-cabinet level, Joel Maglungsod is till labor undersecretary but like Maza, he wont have to face the CA.

The Makabayan bloc has previously said that the peace process is their primary reason for sticking it out with Duterte despite the rejections of their colleagues.

Opposition congressman, Ifugao rep. Teddy Baguilat said, “ It shows that the tactical alliance forged by the extreme left and President Duterte before during and after the elections is based on flimsy grounds”Of greater concern is whether this now absolutely closes the door for any peace talks with the NDF.”

Other Members of the Cabinet who have been rejected by the CA are Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.