Confirm Sec. Rafael Mariano, Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, and Sec. Gina Lopez

Photo from Kalikasan

An open letter by concerned Filipinos living in the United States to the Philippine Commission on Appointments

We, concerned Filipinos living in the US call on the Commission on Appointments in the Philippine Congress to confirm Sec. Rafael Mariano, Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, and Sec. Gina Lopez, as secretaries for Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare and Development, and Environment and Natural Resources, respectively, on their hearing on May 3. We fully support the efforts of these secretaries to genuinely protect the rights and welfare of the most underprivileged, under-resourced, and exploited people in the Philippines.

These secretaries are far from business-as-usual politics. Since their appointment, Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez have served as good models for what democracy can look like when a government actually serves the needs of the majority versus the interests of the elite few.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has upheld the rights of farmworkers to genuine land reform, opposing the various ways big landowners have used to trick reform beneficiaries into “selling” or “leasing” the land the farmworkers rightfully own.  Sec. Mariano has also exposed former President Benigno Aquino III for turning a blind eye to the recruitment of seasonal contractual sugar farmers to work in slave-like conditions on Hacienda Luisita, a large plot of land owned by his family.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) set aside almost 1 billion pesos worth of standby funds and relief supply in preparation for the impact of ‘Carina,’ a severe tropical storm affecting parts of southern Luzon and eastern Visayas. This is in stark contrast to the previous administration’s handling of Typhoon Yolanda when the DSWD failed to utilize nearly 8 million pesos worth of foreign and local cash donations.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has shown deep commitment to Filipinos especially to the poor indigenous people by ordering the cancellation of  75 mining contracts and suspending over 20 mining operations due to the destruction of watersheds.

Many of us have participated in educational programs and relief and solidarity missions to the Philippines where we witnessed the everyday conditions of the Filipino people. We understand that social injustice is a systemic problem being perpetrated by corrupt government officials whose financial investments grow off the suffering of the Filipino people. Secretaries Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez go against the grain of the status quo by firmly standing for social justice and against agrarian backwardness, privatization of social services, and environmental destruction.

We also recognize the importance of the scope of work of their three departments to realizing the main agenda item of the ongoing Peace Talks between the GRP and CPP-NPA-NDFP, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. Essentially, these talks strive to address the root problems of mass poverty, chronic joblessness and socioeconomic inequality that have given rise to the armed conflict in the Philippines. Sec. Lopez’ statement on Earth Day “If you look at the history of the NPA, why did they go to the mountains? Because they were dissatisfied with what is happening in the country. The reason for the NPA and MILF is social injustice. If people are happy, taken care of, and well, then why would they fight?” highlights the integral need to solve these root problems.

These are the same reasons that force 6000 Filipinos everyday to leave their families behind in search for work abroad. The Filipino people in the Philippines and abroad can benefit from concrete reforms being implemented by these secretaries — reforms that aim to allocate resources back to the majority of the Filipino people instead of a few landlord and corporate families.

We demand that the members of the Commission on Appointments fulfill their sworn duty of serving the Filipino people and confirm Secretaries Mariano, Taguiwalo, and Lopez into President Duterte’s cabinet for they truly represent the majority of the Filipino people, a most welcome change in Philippine politics. A negative vote on their confirmation would be a betrayal to the interests of the Filipino people.

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This open letter is authored by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and Kapit Bisig Kabataan Network. NAFCON is a multi-issue alliance of Filipino organizations and individuals in the United States serving to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos by fighting for social, economic, and racial justice and equality. At present, NAFCON members encompass over 23 cities in the US. KBKN is a Filipino-American youth and student led relief network built in response to Typhoon Haiyan, comprised of 21 organizations and 13 universities across the United States.

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