For Small Farmers of Mindanao, ‘Lakbayan’ Offers a Chance to Be Heard

Small farmers like Winifreda Cabisay have not benefited much from the government’s agrarian-reform program. She was awarded land in 1996 but she has not been awarded a title to it and has had problems maintaining it. With the 10-day Lakbayan, Cabisay hopes that the issues that confront farmers like her will be heard.

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Winifreda Cabisay, 62, carried a placard during the kick-off ceremony on Jan. 12 of Lakbayan, a 10-day farmers’ caravan that brought together farmers from as far as Davao in the south and Tarlac in the north to dramatize their age-old clamor for land and justice.

“Oppose Oplan Bantay Laya,” read the placard, referring to the government’s counterinsurgency program that, according to Danilo Ramos, the secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), killed mostly unarmed farmers in the country.

Cabisay, from Tamugan in Marilog district, this city, said she was rooting for the caravan to voice out the demands of small farmers like her.

Winifreda Cabisay, a farmer in Tamugan village in Marilog, believes the caravan represents the farmers’ age-old clamor for land. (Photo by Barry Ohaylan /

In 1996, she was awarded with less than a hectare piece of land in Upper Tamugan village under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). But she had difficulty paying for the amortization.

“No matter how much I wanted to pay, I did not have enough money,” Cabisay said. As a result, she has not been issued a certificate of land ownership (Cloa) for her piece of land.

To pay for the land amortization, Cabisay leased her piece of land to the Dole banana company in 2004. Dole rented the land for five years for only 53,000 pesos. Of the total amount, 15,000 pesos was spent for the first down payment of the amortization fee.

Cabisay also said she decided to lease her land because the rest of her neighbors already converted their ricelands into banana plantations. She was the last one to hold on to her property.

According to Pedro Arnado, spokesman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao, over 100 hectares of land in Tamugan village alone have already been planted to bananas, which are then exported by companies like Dole.

Cabisay used to plant corn but she ended up spending a large part of her income to pay her debts. She said she used to borrow from big financiers to pay for the high prices of fertilizers, corn seedlings and even pesticides.

The 10-day nationwide caravan aimed to bring to government’s attention the issues of farmers like Cabisay. More than 7,000 farmers coming from as far as Tarlac in the north and Davao City in the south are expected converge in Quezon City to join the long March to Malacañang on Jan. 22, the 23rd year of the Mendiola Massacre.

Ramos said 13 farmers were killed and 51 were wounded in Mendiola when they demanded for genuine agrarian reform from the government 23 years ago.

Ramos said farmers continue losing their lands to big landlords and big multinational companies. People like Cabisay, who owned a small piece of land, lacked government support to make their land profitable. The land problems of farmers all over the country persisted and is even getting worse, he said.

The caravan will also demand justice for the farmers killed under the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program. Ramos said, 561 farmers nationwide have been killed under President Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program; 119 of them were leaders and members of the KMP. In Southern Mindanao alone, 32 farmers were killed since Arroyo assumed power in 2001. He also said 129 farmers nationwide have also fallen victims of enforced disappearances.

As part of the kick-off activities, farmers gathered at the Freedom Park on Tuesday before proceeding with a torch march toward the office of House Speaker Prospero Nograles along Quirino Avenue.

There, they burned a copy of the Carper Law (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms), which according to Ramos, only contained “deceptive” provisions that will prevent farmers from finally owning the land.

Ramos said Nograles was instrumental in the passage of Carper, a five-year extension of Carp, which he believed will not answer the farmers’ clamor for land. Nograles has also been pushing for Charter change in Congress, a move that will perpetuate President Arroyo’s hold on power, her critics say.

In a liturgy held for the Lakbayan delegates at UCCP Haran, youths rendered songs and poems depicting the farmers’ situation. (Grace S. Uddin/

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