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Leftist Cabinet members won’t resign

By: - Reporter / @jgamilINQ
/ 03:10 AM February 08, 2017
National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS

Leftist members of President Duterte’s Cabinet said on Tuesday they would not resign and would instead work for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“As heads of national government agencies tasked to address poverty and improve the quality of life of the Filipino, we believe that the (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) should move the peace negotiations with the NDFP forward,” Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza said in a joint statement.

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They said they “will continue to engage within the Cabinet and the rest of the administration toward the resumption of the talks and strengthening the civilian voice in the peace process.”

Most substantive agenda

The proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, which was tabled in the third round of talks in Italy, was the “most substantive agenda in the negotiations and is key to lasting peace and long-term poverty eradication,” they said.

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They said the two sides had already reached “a common understanding of the agrarian unrest in the country and have agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers.”

Their respective working groups on political and constitutional reforms also have exchanged views on a proposal to form a federal system as well as safeguards and constitutional guarantees.

The three Cabinet secretaries lamented that the peace talks had been stalled under Mr. Duterte but expressed continued support for the President.

They said Mr. Duterte had made a commitment “to lift 9 million Filipinos out of poverty by the end of his term.”

“The statement adds weight on the government’s work in implementing a genuine agrarian reform, building its industries and promoting social welfare and development as an integral part of poverty alleviation,” they said.

Passion for work

The Cabinet secretaries said while talks on socioeconomic reforms were ongoing, the agencies under the Cabinet’s Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster were working on direct, immediate and substantial benefits for the poor and the marginalized sectors of society.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who announced on Tuesday an “all-out war” against communist rebels, said Taguiwalo, Mariano and Maza were “doing their job very well” and need not step down.

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“They have passion [for] what they are doing and that’s what we need in the Cabinet—people who are passionate (about) what they do,” Lorenzana told reporters in Malacañang. “If they keep on delivering the services to the people and helping the government, I don’t see any reason why they cannot continue.”

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer and one of the strident critics of Mr. Duterte, said he agreed with the President’s all-out war against the rebels. “It’s about time,” he said.

“But to prove that this is not another bluster, President Duterte must immediately fire the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) officials whom he appointed to various high positions in government,” Trillanes said in a statement without identifying the officials.

Taguiwalo, Mariano and Maza were nominated to the Cabinet by the NDFP, but have not been acknowledged as officers of the CPP. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND TARRA QUISMUNDO

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