After 2 hearings, Mariano not worried about fate at CA

MANILA, Philippines – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano again faced the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) on Tuesday, September 5, to address the issues hurled against him by his oppositors.

"Wala po talaga akong nararamdamang kaba o pag-aalala. Hindi ko maipaliwanag kung ito ba ay dahilan sa bilang ko kasi, marami po sa mga miyembro ng Commission on Appointments ay nakasama ko doon sa aking 9 na taon sa House of Representatives," Mariano told reporters after the two-hour hearing on Tuesday.

(I'm not really nervous or worried. I can't explain if this is because based on my own estimates, many of the members of the Commission on Appointments were my colleagues when I served for 9 years at the House of Representatives.)

He added: "At 'pag tinatanong ako kaugnay sa support ni President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, sabi ko po 'yung issuance mismo, pagkakaloob sa akin ng ad interim appointment ni President Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte dated July 23, 2017, 'yun po ay ekspresyon ng patuloy na suporta at pagtitiwala ni President Duterte sa akin bilang kalihim ng Department of Agrarian Reform."

(And when I'm asked about the support of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, I always say his issuance of my ad interim appointment dated July 23, 2017, that itself is an expression of President Duterte's continued support and trust in me as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.)

The second hearing on Tuesday lasted more than two hours, and at least 6 oppositors aired their grievances against Mariano, a nominee of the Philippine Left.

In particular, oppositor Noel Mallari accused Mariano of favoring the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), a farmers' group which, according to Mallari, "[ay] laging nanggugulo sa Hacienda (always causes trouble at Hacienda Luisita)."

Mariano denied he favors Ambala and even noted that during his first year in office, he conducted more than 200 dialogues and consultations with various farmers' groups and even landowners.

"Ang pamamahagi po ng lupa doon sa Hacienda Luisita, ayon na rin sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema, hindi po namimili kung anong organisasyon ang kinabibilangan po ninyo," he explained.

(The distribution of the land in Hacienda Luisita – based on the decision of the Supreme Court – does not discriminate regardless of the group you belong to.)

In 2016, Mariano ordered the distribution of hundreds of hectares of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac – aside from the almost 5,000 hectares that the Supreme Court had ordered for parcelling out.

Lapanday Foods Corporation

Meanwhile, Hernani Geronimo of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) said the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Incorporated (Marbai) was "emboldened" by Mariano as they "forcibly and unlawfully entered Hearbco-1's banana plantation on December 8, 2016, when around 20 heavily armed persons hired by Marbai disarmed Hearbco-1's security guard."

"Secretary Mariano upon assuming office wasted no time in conspiring with Marbai to illegally take over the 150-hectare portion of the 450-hectare banana plantation. He directed the various militant leftist groups which he has been associated with to provide material and moral support to Marbai," Geronimo said.

Marbai – a breakaway group from the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative-1 (Hearbco-1) – is the group that Mariano favored when he ordered the "peaceful installation" of farmers at the Davao del Norte plantation that was earlier the subject of a cease and desist order.

"Wala po akong direktang partisipasyon sa akusasyon na ako ay bahagi sa pagpa-plano sa mga naganap na insidente diyan sa Lapanday," Mariano said during the hearing.

(I don't have direct participation regarding the accusation that I was part of planning the incidents that happened there at Lapanday.)

Mariano also asserted that all matters involving the implementation of the agrarian reform program are within the primary jurisdiction and the exclusive and original jurisdiction of the DAR.

"Sinabi ko rin na 'yung mga aksyon at desisyon ng DAR ay hindi bunga ng conspiracy ng DAR at ng Marbai, kun'di ginampanan lang ng DAR kung ano ang kanyang poder, mandato, at functions," he added.

(I said that the decisions and actions of DAR were not a result of a supposed conspiracy between DAR and Marbai, rather DAR is only doing what is within its jurisdiction, mandate, and functions.)

He said Geronimo's accusations are "baseless, unfounded, and malicious."

Asked about the oppositors' motivations, Mariano said he doesn't want to pass judgment.

"Hindi ako magbibigay ng paghuhusga. [Ang] mahalaga ay marinig po 'yung kanilang sinasabing basehan ng oposisyon nila (I will not pass judgment. What's important is to listen to the basis of their opposition)," he added.

The CA committee on agrarian reform will continue the hearing on Wednesday, September 6. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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