DAR secretary linked to NPA attack on firm
Senior security officials of President Rodrigo Duterte and a banana grower in Davao have linked Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano to an attack by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) on the banana company early this year, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday.
During a hearing by the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Mariano’s nomination, Sotto, chair of the CA committee on agrarian reform, said the allegations were contained in a joint resolution by the Regional Peace and Order Council of Southern Mindanao in May.
The resolution cited an “intel report” saying Mariano was involved in the NPA attack on the Davao City facilities of Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) in April, Sotto said.
“The resolution was signed by four governors, the chief of staff [Gen. Eduardo Año], the secretary of national defense [Delfin Lorenzana] and by three to four mayors,” said Sotto of the resolution that mentioned Mariano’s supposed involvement in the burning of Lapanday’s box and plastics plants. Sotto did not provide a copy of the resolution.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, a member of the council chaired by Compostela Valley Gov. Jayvee Tyron Uy, said she could not remember if there were discussions or a resolution.
Mayor Duterte lambasted the NPA for the death of Larry Buenafe, a fish vendor who was killed on April 29 when the rebels launched simultaneous attacks on three plants owned by LFC in Davao City’s Mandug village.
Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM) in Southern Mindanao, an underground farmers’ group, said it was “understandable” for the mayor to view the attack as an act of terrorism against the Lorenzo family allegedly because her husband, Manases Carpio, was a legal counsel of the company.
Months before the attack, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) intervened in favor of a group of farmers in a dispute with LFC over more than 100 hectares of banana land that had been awarded to the farmers 21 years earlier.
During Tuesday’s CA hearing, LFC finance officer Manolito Dagatan and company spokesperson Hernani Geronimo also accused Mariano of involvement in the attack by NPA guerrillas who set fire to property worth P2 billion.
The fire resulted in the loss of livelihood of 100 employees, according to the company.
Mariano was “unfit” to hold the position of DAR chief, Geronimo said. “He abused his authority, mocked the Constitution and laws with impunity, discord and destruction.”
“I categorically deny any direct involvement or participation in the planning of the incident that happened in Lapanday,” Mariano said in response.
“I also do not support such attacks. It’s outside the decision of the DAR,” he added.
Sotto said CA members needed to grill Mariano because his reply to the allegations was “lacking and not very clear.”
In December last year, the DAR stepped into the land dispute between farmers and LFC in Tagum City, ordering the company and its security guards to stop evicting farmers from 145 hectares of land that was awarded to them in 1996 under the government’s agrarian reform program.
Mariano’s appointment also was opposed by a group of farmers from Hacienda Luisita represented by Rodel Mesa and Noel Mallari, who said the agrarian reform chief favored other farmer groups in the sugar plantation, particularly Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala).
Ambala is an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, which was formerly headed by Maoriano.
This bias supposedly created conflict of interest among farmers on the plantation, said the farmers, who were among the 10 public opponents of Mariano’s appointment.
Mariano was one of three nominees of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines to high positions in the Duterte administration.
One of them, Judy Taguiwalo, has been rejected by the CA after serving just over a year as social welfare secretary. The third nominee was former Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, who was appointed head of the National Antipoverty Commission. —With a report from Nico Alconaba
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.