By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Only a few days to go before President Benigno Aquino III marks his 100th day as head of state, a peasant leader said Aquino is no different from the past presidents, and is a celebrated “political champion of the ruling class.”
In two different occasions, the peasant group submitted their demands and immediate needs to the then newly-elected president — first was on June 8 then on June 30, a day before Aquino was proclaimed winner and the day he was sworn in as president, respectively. Yet, despite these, Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas told Bulatlat, the president did not show the slightest interest to resolve the issues confronting peasants and agricultural workers.
“The most that he did was to send a letter dated August 18, referring our issues to various government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Department of Agrarian Reform and to the National Irrigation Agency,” Ramos said, “Other than that, no concrete action was taken.”
Instead, Aquino, according to Ramos, has ordered the extension of Oplan Bantay Laya, the bloodiest counterinsurgency program in Philippine history that has brought about gross human rights violations, has kept a ‘hands off’ policy on the land dispute on the 6,543-hectare-Hacienda Luisita of which he is a co-owner, and has continued government policies and programs that the peasant leader deems anti-people and anti-peasant.
Human Rights Violations
The first 100 days of the Aquino government has been marred with 11 peasants killed. The first was Pascual Guevarra, a senior leader of ALMANA 3,100, a peasant organization inside the 3,100 hectare Fort Magsaysay, who was killed on July 9.
Tanggol Magsasaka, a peasants’ rights group, reported that Pascual’s death was followed shortly with the killing of farmers Julius Tamondes and Naldo Labrador of Paquibato District, Davao City on August 12 and September 3, respectively. Then, the September 7 massacre in Mobo, Masbate took place, which left four farmers killed, namely Vicente Flores, Richard Oliva, Melencio Monacelio and Jonathan Monacelio, a 21-year-old high school student.
Another peasant was killed on September 9, Vicente Felisilda of Compostela Valley. Felisilda is a copra farmer and a member of progressive party-list group, Bayan Muna. Two more were killed in Antipolo, Rizal, a certain Robert and Junior, but KMP is still verifying the details of the killings.
The latest killing was on October 1 when Rene “Toto” Quirante, chairman of Kaugma-on, a local chapter of KMP, was shot dead around 2:00 a.m. in Sitio Amomoyong, Barangay Trinidad Guihulngan, Negros Oriental by soldiers from the 11th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army, Karapatan, a human rights group, reported. Quirante was one of the six peasant leaders of Kaugma-on who have been charged with common crimes in 2008.
Jigs Clamor of Karapatan said they are condemning “the new wave of political killings perpetrated by the military.” He also blamed Aquino for “pampering the blood thirsty military by extending Oplan Bantay Laya, the blueprint for the bloody attacks used by the former Arroyo regime.”
Clamor said Negros Island is among the AFP’s priority areas for massive military operations under the extended OBL. “Guihulngan and the whole central Negros in particular is under heavy military operations for quite some time now.”
“We firmly believe that extra-judicial killings are part of (Aquino’s) fascist attack on the peasants who struggle for land and justice,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka co-convenor said in a statement.
KMP also noted the massive displacements caused by military operations such as in Barangay Mahabi, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur, where 210 families or around 1089 individuals forcibly evacuated on August 20 and from August 28 to September 8. Shortly after the evacuations, two farm workers, namely Renato Delinguer and Augustino Ladera, became victims of enforced disappearances. They were last seen tending to their abaca plantation.
Another youth leader inside Hacienda Luisita, Ronald Intal, has also been abducted and remains missing as of press time.
A 17-year-old peasant was also tortured to insanity, reportedly by the military. KMP brought him to a mental institution on September 30 to have him checked.
Harassments, intimidation and attempted killings of peasant leaders have also continued. Rodolfo Sambajon, former chair of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya and currently a local organizer in Bataan, escaped from soldiers and members of CAFGU who have been monitoring him from September 11 to 13.
Ramos said one of the highlights of the demands they submitted to Aquino is the release of political prisoners. There are 561 peasants who are languishing in jail under the Arroyo government because of trumped up charges, mostly petty crimes, 119 are KMP leaders.