Liza Maza resigns from Duterte Cabinet

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Liza Maza resigns from Duterte Cabinet
She submitted her letter to President Rodrigo Duterte a week after a Nueva Ecija court dismissed the case filed against her, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño.
Presidential Photo / Simeon Celi Jr.

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:07 p.m.) — National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Liza Maza announced her irrevocable resignation from government on Monday.

She submitted her letter to President Rodrigo Duterte a week after a Nueva Ecija court dismissed the case filed against her, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and former Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño.

In a press briefing, Maza said that she is grateful for having been given an opportunity to serve the government.

She cited the government’s decision to terminate the peace negotiations with communist rebels and the return of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Pampanga) and the Marcoses to power as the reasons for her decision to quit.

“His latest pronouncement, however, on finally terminating the talks brings me to the conclusion that these reforms may no longer be possible under the current administration. In any case, genuine change cannot happen when old forces of fascism and corruption and the defenders of elite and foreign interests, are consolidating their position in government,” Maza said.

Maza and Mariano were among the nominees of the National Democratic Front, which represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army at peace talks, to the Duterte administration. 

In preparation for the resumption of formal peace talks in 2016, Duterte said he was willing to appoint NDF nominees and progressives to the departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment, Labor, and Social Welfare and Development.

Of those appointees, three — Mariano, former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez — were rejected by the congressional Commission on Appointments. Joel Maglungsod, a former representative of Anakpawis party-list, is still an undersecretary at the Department of Labor and Employment.

Palace thanks Maza for her service

Malacañang on Monday thanked Maza for her two years of service in the government but expressed regret that she had decided to leave.

“She had the trust and confidence of the president and she resigned,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who had called on Maza to surrender to authorities over the 2006 case, said. 

Responding to Maza’s reason for her resignation, Roque maintained that the Duterte will only go back to peace talks with communisy rebels should they meet the government’s conditions. 

“We maintain that the president will have peace talks with the communists if it is in the Philippines, will stop collection of revolutionary taxes momentarily while peace talks are ongoing, [will] refrain from resuming insurgency and will stay in designated camps,” Roque said.

He added: “I don’t know really she connected peace talks to her work in NAPC.” 

Maza said that the peace negotiations could potentially facilitate socio-economic and political reforms, which could help in eradicating poverty among Filipinos. 

The former Gabriela party-list solon said she would resume fighting from among the masses instead.

“Ako po ay babalik sa piling ng kilusang masa. Ako po ay patuloy na magsusulong ng tunay na partisipasyoon ng mamamayan sa paglikha ng pagbabago (I will go back to the mass movement. I will continue to push for the people's genuine participation in creating change,” Maza said.

READ: Group announces P1-million bounty on Maza, Mariano, 2 others

Nueva Ecija case

A Nueva Ecija court last week dismissed a complaint filed against Maza and other former Makabayan bloc lawmakers in 2006 over the abduction and killing of three farmers who were reportedly supporters of rival party-list Akabayan more than a decade ago.

The former lawmakers had long contended that the charges against them were trumped up and had asked for the dismissal of the case.

In July, Judge Evelyn Turla issued an arrest warrant for the four former party-list lawmakers despite her 2008 order remanding the case to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, saying "the proper procedure in the conduct of the preliminary investigation was not followed" and that prosecutors should conduct a proper preliminary investigation.

"From the gathering of evidence until the termination of the preliminary investigation, it appears that the state prosecutors were overly-eager to file the case and to secure a warrant of arrest of [petitioners] without bail and their consequent detention," she also said then.

The respondents questioned the move before the Supreme Court, saying the cases against them should be dismissed if the court did not find probable cause. 

In February 2017, the Supreme Court partially granted the respondents' petition, saying sending the cases back to the prosecutor was improper and, in a turnaround, Turla issued warrants for the former lawmakers' arrest.

Turla inhibited from the case after issuing the warrant.

In response to the issuance of the warrant, the Palace urged Maza to surrender to authorities.

“If they are innocent then they should surrender, recognize the jurisdiction of the court and prove their innocence in court,” Roque said in a press briefing in late July.

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