There is more to the embattled governor of Cavite than meets the eye. For long-time residents, particularly the farmers, he should be removed not only because of his penchant for stealing public funds, but also for alleged political repression and militarization of which poor peasants were at the receiving end.
BY DENNIS ESPADA
DASMARIÑAS, Cavite (36 kms south of Manila) – More than the issue of corruption which was highlighted by the mainstream media, efforts to remove embattled Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi as governor of Cavite are rooted in his regime of political repression and militarization.
Thus said the militant farmer’s group Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Farmers Federation in Cavite) in the course of a lingering local political crisis of Caviteños (residents of Cavite).
Last July 29, Cavite Vice Governor Johnvic Remulla slapped the governor with graft charges before the Ombudsman for a questionable purchase of rice worth P7.5 million ($133,689.84, based on an exchange rate of P56.10 per US dollar) in 2004. In an audit observation memorandum, the Commission on Audit (CoA) disclosed that the purchases were made without public bidding and did not pass through the National Food Authority (NFA) as required by law.
Although the implementation of a six-month suspension order against Maliksi was successfully repealed after the Court of Appeals granted his request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) within a 60-day period, he is not yet off the hook.
“Gov. Maliksi does not deserve a TRO because he is facing a case of stealing public funds,” Kamagsasaka-Ka leader Rogelio Galit told Bulatlat. “Like President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his anti-people and anti-farmer regime must end. Both of them have no more right to stay in office.”
“The people should continuously assert their legitimate rights to fight against any forms of corruption while at the same time remaining vigilant in advancing genuine reforms and pro-people programs in the province,” Galit said.
Cavite farmers are demanding the provincial government to raise prices of palay (unmilled rice) to P15 ($0.27) per kilo, subsidize agricultural production inputs and impose a moratorium on land-use conversion in order to alleviate poverty in the countryside.
Most rice farmers in the province are landless tenants. Landlords and unscrupulous rice traders are able to dictate lower palay prices by controlling essential farm tools and acting as loan sharks. Kamagsasaka-Ka’s latest case study in Naic town showed that after every harvesting period, farmers earn a measely P12 to P36 ($0.21 to $0.64) a day.
Last year Alfredo Catoto, a rice farmer, accused Maliksi of violating Republic Act No. 7080 or the Plunder Law, in connection with an anomalous rice purchase from the private firm Capitol Marketing amounting to P23.2 million ($413,547.24).
At present, vast agricultural lands are rapidly being converted into numerous golf courses, residential and industrial estates since Project Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) was implemented in the 1990s. Independent studies suggested that land conversion may pose greater risk to health, ecological balance and food security, not to mention the thousands of peasants who would be displaced.
Political repression, militarization
According to people’s organizations, the Maliksi administration has also engaged in “political repression and militarization” since he became governor in 2001.
Around 500 farmers picketed the provincial capitol in Trece Martires City on Oct. 18 last year to dialogue with Maliksi but the latter refused to confront them. Instead, some 30 police officers and 20 members of the Civilian Security Unit (CSU) were deployed in the area to disperse the protesters using dirty water cannons fired from fire trucks.
“Tatlong taon nang pinagpapabalik-balik ang mga magsasaka sa tanggapan ni Maliksi, pero hanggang ngayon ang laging bukambibig niya ay pag-aaralan ang petisyon ng magbubukid. Sawa na ang mamamayan at magsasaka” (Farmers have been going to the office of Maliksi for three years, but up to now all he says is that he will study the farmers’ petition. The people and the farmers are already fed up.), Sheryll Villegas, secretary-general of the Cavite chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said.
Villegas also scored the governor for supporting the Macapagal-Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency program marked by the massive recruitment of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (Cafgu) and other paramilitary groups.
The establishment of military and police detachments inside interior villages in the municipalities of Maragondon, Magallanes, Indang, Alfonso and Bailen, she added, has sown fear among the rural folk. (Bulatlat.com)