We in AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People support the confirmation of progressive cabinet members Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano, and Environment Secretary Gina Lopez. After less than a year in office, the three have enacted pro-people policies and programs and have proven their capability to head their respective departments.

Sec. Judy, Ka Paeng, and Sec. Gina faced the Commission of Appointments (CA) for the third time on May 3 after they were previously bypassed by the CA and reappointed by Duterte twice. Despite this, the three have continued pursuing pro-people policies and programs that mark a good start for much-needed reforms in the government.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development under Secretary Judy Taguiwalo has become more efficient in service delivery, guaranteeing that resources reach constituents fully and without delay. We can clearly see this in the present DWSD’s disaster response and relief program which has been more effective in reaching survivors in disaster-stricken communities compared to the past. Sec. Judy has also been vocal in refusing to use so-called “disaster pork” for patronage politics where relief is distributed by local politicians to foster the people’s support for them in the next elections.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Ka Paeng on the other hand has issued important resolutions such as the moratorium on land use conversion, previously used by landlords to reverse their land’s eligibility for land reform. He has also pushed for land reform and free land distribution at most as is allowed under the limitations of current laws. Ka Paeng has also pushed the same as part of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which recently reached a breakthrough agreement in principle on free land distribution.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has also implemented unprecedented policies as head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The DENR order for the closure of 23 big mining companies and suspension of 5 large-scale mining operations, along with the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements, is a positive step to address the current liberalized mining industry which has led to environmental destruction and displacement of communities. The rehabilitation of fish pens in Laguna Lake is also welcome as we foresee that it will clear monopoly interests in the area.

In addition to their individual contributions, it is also necessary to note that the presence of progressives in the cabinet, particularly Sec. Judy and Ka Paeng, is instrumental in the course of the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP. They have been key figures in pushing for the continuation of the peace talks after peace spoilers influenced Duterte to cut negotiations earlier in March. Sec. Gina also recently expressed support for the peace talks, acknowledging that “the way to peace is to address the social injustice on the ground”.

In accord with the negotiations on social and economic reforms in the GRP-NDFP peace talks, the progressive cabinet members are already enacting immediate reforms that are within their capacity. Ka Paeng’s distribution of land to peasants and Sec. Gina’s opposition to big mines, among others, are in tune with the pillar of agrarian reform and national industrialization as seen in the common outline of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms from both panels.

The staunch opposition to the three progressive cabinet members have only shown that the interests of big businesses and landlords in the government are prevailing over the interests of the Filipino masses. We need to push for the confirmation of Sec. Judy, Ka Paeng, and Sec. Gina who truly champion the people’s concerns.#


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