The appointment of a farmer to one of the highest post in the Duterte administration was unprecedented. Rafael Mariano a farmer-leader and a former legislator who took office on June 30, 2016 as Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

As early as his first month in office, Mariano or popularly known as Ka Paeng made a mark by bringing the department to its constituents which for the longest time had been detached from the farmers. For more than a decade, I have witnessed how past administrations failed the landlness farmers.

As I watch the news, it took me sometime to process and it is almost in disbelief to see that the main gate of DAR was opened. For the longest time DAR’s main gate was literally closed preventing farmers group that genuinely call for free land distribution to enter. The symbolic opening of DAR’s main gate is a clear political statement that his leadership is open especially to the poor landless farmers of this country.

Ka Paeng is a working cabinet secretary, he did not confine himself in the corners of his office. His schedule is occupied with consultations with farmers throughout the country. He made sure to be present always in every installation, especially those who needed him most like the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) in Davao del Norte, and in the very controversial Hacienda Luisita of the Cojuangco-Aquino.

The performance of Ka Paeng in his one year of office proved that sincere and resolute commitment to the aspirations of farmers will provide avenue in advancing their basic right to land. Farmers throughout the country raised their hopes with Ka Paeng as DAR secretary. Their secretary.

While Ka Paeng champions the interest of the landless farmers, land lords and land grabbers like Lapanday’s Lorenzo family were also occupied to derail efforts in returning the land to the tillers by throwing trumped-up charges against Ka Paeng. Aside from cases, one of the major challenges that the administration of Ka Paeng has been confronted is his confirmation from the Commission on Appointment (CA) of Congress.

Now, before these bunch of crooks gather on August 30, 2017 for the confirmation hearing of Ka Paeng, the broadest ranks of people, along with our farmers must rally and declare our support for Ka Paeng as the most eligible and deserving DAR Secretary for this country.

We pray for his confirmation, however free from illusions. We will not be surprised if CA will fail us again. CA has a very callous reputation in terms of confirming the appointment of pro-people cabinet secretaries. CA did their first strike to Environment Secretary Gina Lopez. Last week, it was DSWD’s Judy Taguiwalo. If they will not confirm Ka Paeng, this will be their third strike. In baseball, it means it’s time to strike them out.

We must prepare for great battles. We will reclaim what is rightfully ours. For land and justice, buwagin ang mga asyenda.

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