Amid ties with Left, Mariano says he was never part of communist groups
MANILA, Philippines – Amid his ties with the Left, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said he was never a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its allied groups.
Mariano made the clarification in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, August 30, after the Commission on Appointments (CA) deferred his confirmation.
Asked if he was ever part of the CPP, Mariano said he was part of legitimate "democratic organizations" furthering the cause of peasant groups, but was never part of any underground movement.
"'Di po ako naging bahagi, 'di po ako nagkaroon ng karanasan sa underground, kaya magkaiba po 'yung kalagayan namin ni Secretary Taguiwalo," Mariano said.
(I was never part of it, I never had any experiences in the underground movement that's why Secretary Taguiwalo and I have different circumstances.)
Mariano was referring to former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who was rejected by the CA for allegedly using her department to support and recruit New People's Army (NPA) members. Taguiwalo has since denied the allegation.
Mariano, however, said he understands why farmers would want to join the armed revolution due to the absence of social justice.
"Maiintindihan ko bakit maraming magsasaka tayo na nagpapasya na lumahok at maging bahagi ng armadong rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa ating bansa. Maiintindihan ko po 'yun sa hanay ng ating magsasaka," he said.
(I can understand why there are many farmers who join the armed revolution in the country. I would understand why the farmers would decide to do that.)
During the hearing, Mariano also said he is not offended when he is called part of the Left because it only means he is among those pursuing genuine change in society.
"'Di ako nasasaktan 'pag tinatawag na kaliwa. Wala sa amin na nasasaktan. Ang kahulugan noon ay naghahanap ng tunay na pagbabago sa lipunan," he said before the CA panel.
(I am not offended when I am called a member of the Left. None of us are offended. It means we are seeking real change in society.)
Prior to being DAR chief, Mariano was Anakpawis representative. He was also the chairman of leftist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) but resigned in June 2016 to avoid "conflict of interest."
Both Mariano and Taguiwalo had been recommended by the National Democratic Front (NDF) to the Cabinet.
CA members, who refused to be identified, earlier told Rappler that they rejected Taguiwalo for her alleged links to the NPA.
Weeks before Taguiwalo's confirmation hearing, the House contingent of the CA held two security briefings on the Left.
Asked about it, Mariano said he is not worried about getting rejected.
"Pinapaubaya ko na po sa bawat miyembro ng Commission on Appointments kung ano magiging pasya," he said. (I leave it up to each member of the Commission on Appointments to decide on my fate.)
"Ako naman 'di ako miyembro ng CPP-NPA-NDF at ako'y napaliwanag ko naman po ang history ng aking involvement sa peasant movement. Mula noon, hanggang ngayon ay nasa legal, democratic organization po ako," he added.
(I was never a member of the CPP-NPA-NDF and I have already explained the history of my involvement in the peasant movement. I have always been part of legal, democratic organizations.)
During the hearing, Senator Gregorio Honasan II asked Mariano if he could condemn communist rebels' violent acts during peace negotiations.
"Para sa 'kin, ang mas mabigat na issue ay issue ng paggamit ng marahas na paraan. Medyo naantala ngayon ang usaping pangkapayapaan. Ang katanungan natin, tuwing tatanungin kung bakit ito ginagawa ng [NPA], kadalasang tugon ay: 'Wala kaming control sa puwersang 'yan.' Kasunod na tanong, maari bang i-kondena natin ang gano'ng uri ng gawain?" said Honasan, a former soldier.
(For me, the more serious issue is the use of violent means. The peace talks have been stalled. My question is, every time it's asked why the NPA is carrying out attacks, we often hear this response: "We have no control over the rebel force." As a follow-up to that, can we condemn NPA attacks?)
"So kung walang control at hindi i-kondena, para ano pa at ipagpapatuloy ang usaping pangkapayapaan?" the senator added. (So if we have no control over the NPA and we also won't condemn what they do, why should we bother continuing the peace talks?)
Honasan said Mariano should choose whether to side with the law or not.
"In your case, kahit na sabihin natin na tayo ay dating ganito, 'di maiiwasan 'yung perception na tayo pa rin ang inspirasyon ng pangyayari ngayon. Dinudulog ko ito para mapag-isipang mabuti. Ako po'y umaasa na maunawaan 'nyo ito," the senator added.
(In your case, even if you cite your personal history, it can't be avoided that there's a perception that you're somehow influencing them. I'm raising this so you can think about it carefully. I hope you'll understand.)
Mariano, in response, said he joins the Filipino people in seeking true and lasting peace for the country.
"Sa aking paninilbihan, ako po'y nakikiisa sa Pilipino na makamit ang tunay at pangmatagalang kapayapaan. Ako po'y naniniwala, malaking pinag-uugatan ay agrarian unrest, social unrest kung bakit may armadong labanan at sigalot. Ako po'y, hanggang ngayon, 'di nawawalan ng pag-asa," he said.
(As I serve the Filipino people, I join them in their quest for true and lasting peace. I believe that the armed conflict can be traced to agrarian unrest, social unrest. Until now, I have not lost hope.)
The CA deferred Mariano's confirmation after having heard only one out of the 10 oppositors. The next hearing is set for Tuesday, September 5. – Rappler.com