Land reform advocates and supporters of Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary (DAR) Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano will lead a vigil tonight at the Senate on the eve of his confirmation hearing.

“Mariano is the last best chance of this administration. President Duterte should heed the public’s clamor and retain Ka Paeng at DAR. Ka Paeng has helped realized DAR for farmers and land to the tillers,” said Zenaida Soriano of the AMIHAN Peasant Women Federation.

The vote of CA members from Duterte’s supermajority will be crucial in determining Mariano’s confirmation or rejection. “The rejection of Mariano would be equal to the rejection of genuine land reform and pro-farmer advocacies,” Soriano said.

Tomorrow, August 30, Mariano will face the Commission on Appointments (CA) for the first time and will know his fate as DAR Secretary. “We want him confirmed. He is needed at DAR to pursue pro-farmer reforms including free land distribution,” Soriano added.

At the start of his term as DAR secretary, Mariano said he would ensure that no farmer will be displaced from the lands. The agency is set to implement a national inventory of lands to determine the state of distributed lands and verify the tenurial status of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs.)

“It is only under Mariano that the DAR has upheld an agrarian reform law that would acquire additional public and private agricultural lands for free distribution to farmers and farmworkers,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

The DAR under Mariano has conducted 209 dialogues and consultations with farmers nationwide with over 12,000 farmers in attendance as part of serious efforts to address the demands of farmers.

From July 2016 to May 2017, Mariano has distributed more than 24,177 hectares of land to 15,397 ARBs that received 13,322 Certificate of Land Ownership Awards. After the installation of farmer-beneficiaries to the land, Mariano ensures the provision of support services to beneficiaries and actual tillers. More than 25,400 land cases were resolved by DAR’s legal services. “There’s so much more to accomplish.”

Mass support for Mariano

On Wednesday, farmers’ groups and progressive organizations nationwide will also launch simultaneous mass actions in support of Mariano’s confirmation.

In Southern Mindanao, more than 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and farmers from Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley led by the ARBs One Movement will troop to Davao City to demand the confirmation of Mariano.

In Cagayan de Oro City, farmers will hold a vigil tonight at the DAR Misamis Oriental provincial office. Tomorrow, they will march to Plaza Divisoria.

In Iloilo, 500 farmers will march from the DAR Region 6 Provincial Office in La Paz, Iloilo City to the Provincial Capitol. Similar actions will take place in the provinces of Aklan and Capiz.

In Bicol, thousands of farmers from Masbate and Camarines Norte will also hold mass actions.

More than 300 farmers led by the Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan will hold a caravan from Quezon, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas and Rizal provinces to join the vigil and actions at the Senate.

Farmers from Mariano’s home province Nueva Ecija will join the activities at the Senate. Ilocos farmers will also travel to Manila.

The DAR Employees Association (DAREA) will join the actions in support of Ka Paeng. ###