MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the nomination of the last leftist President Rodrigo Duterte included in his cabinet, removing the agrarian reform minister a year after he joined the government in a bid by Duterte to promote peace.
Duterte, after becoming president in June last year, offered places in his cabinet to members of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines to demonstrate his commitment to talks to end their long-running insurgency.
The minister, Rafael Mariano, was one of two people the party nominated to serve in the cabinet.
Senator Vicente Sotto, chairman of a committee scrutinizing cabinet appointments, said it had conducted an “exhaustive deliberation” then held a vote.
“The weight of the scales ultimately tipped the balance against the confirmation of the appointee,” Sotto told Senate.
He did not elaborate on the reason for the rejection but it came a few months after the government canceled formal peace talks with the communist rebels.
Duterte wants to strike a peace deal with the communists but has been angered by continued violence. He says their demands are excessive and he has already made concessions.
Mariano, speaking to reporters after the hearing, denounced “big landlords, oligarchs, businessmen and big corporations”, saying they may have prevailed with his rejection but the farmers would win in the end.
“I may have failed to get the confirmation today but I will not stop serving our farmers,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella expressed regret over Mariano’s removal, saying he had promoted farmers’ rights and welfare and ensured their security of land tenure.
Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Robert Birsel