‘Open the gates of DAR for our farmers’ –Sec. Mariano

DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano vow to continue the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. (Photo by AlterMidya)
DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano vows to continue the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. (Photo by AlterMidya)

“Open the gates of DAR for our farmers.”

That was the statement of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano upon assuming office.

During the official turn-over ceremony held at DAR’s main office in Quezon City last July 1, Mariano vowed that he and his new ‘DAR family’ will do their best to serve the interests of the Filipino peasantry.

“Kung meron mang mga magsasaka natin na pupunta sa mga tanggapan ng DAR saan mang antas…aba’y salubungin po natin ang ating mga magsasaka, (babatiin ng) ‘Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat, ano po ang aming maipaglilingkod. Papaano po tayo magkakatulungan sa resolusyon ng inyong mga problema?’ Sa halip na isara ang pintuan ng DAR, buksan natin (Upon arrival of our farmers at our agency, at any level…we should welcome them into our office, greet them and ask ‘How can we serve you. How can we work together in addressing your problems?’We should open, rather than close our doors at DAR),” Mariano said in his speech.

A veteran peasant leader and a survivor of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre, Mariano was one of the progressives appointed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to his cabinet.

The new DAR secretary is expected to review the implementation the government’s existing land reform program, while pushing for a new agrarian reform law that will distribute land to Filipino peasants, including tenants and agricultural workers, for free.

Mariano authored the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) during his previous term as representative for Anakpawis Party-list.

Addressing DAR employees, Mariano said, “Para mapairal natin ang hustisyang panlipunan, para (ma-rectify) ang social injustice na malaon nang dinaranas ng ating mga magsasaka, kinakailangan nating makatuwang at maka-kapit bisig sila sa pagdepensa ng kanilang karapatan sa lupa…Nagpapatuloy po ang adbokasiya ni Ka Paeng na maipatupad ang tunay na reporma sa lupa sa ating bansa (To rectify the social injustice long being endured by our farmers, we need to be in partnership with them and together defend their right to land…Ka Paeng’s fight for genuine agrarian reform in our country still continues).”

Mariano is set to convene the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) on July. As the highest policy-making body on the issue of land reform, policy direction on land distribution is crafted through PARC. The DAR secretary remarked that PARC was never ever convened during the Aquino administration.

For more effective implementation of services for farmers, Mariano also seeks closer ties with other government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura blamed a memorandum order made by the chief of staff of former DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for the destruction of crops in Hacienda Luisita, also last July 1.

More than 20 hectares of crops planted to rice and vegetables and the home of farmer Gerry Catalan were destroyed by tractors. These lands are being cultivated by Leoncio Suarez, Gerry Catalan and others since 2004 and 2005, and have been constantly under threat.

In the said memorandum addressed to the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) dated May 18, 2016, it was stated that the PARO need not wait for the pending agrarian dispute case in said area for the installation of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Mapalacsiao.

According to UMA, the destruction of the crops was ordered by Buena Timbol, a trusted aide of the Cojuangco-Aquinos handling affairs of the Luisita Estate Management group and Tarlac Development Corporation, and Edison Diaz, barangay chairman of nearby village Lourdes (formerly Texas).  They were also assisted by several police officers and a SWAT team.

“It is not incidental that the destruction of crops was done on the day the new DAR Secretary was installed,” said UMA secretary general Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos.

Mariano has said that he will prioritize the immediate distribution of Hacienda Luisita, which is still controlled by the family of former president Aquino despite a decision by the Supreme Court in favor of the farmers.

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