Artists vow to continue solidarity with drought-stricken farmers

The A4K said that in the first 100 days, the next president should stop Lumad killings, bring justice to the victims of the Kidapawan carnage and provide meaningful support for farmers affected by El Nino.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – One month after the April 1 violent dispersal of the barricade of farmers in Kidapawan City, a network of more than a hundred artists pledged to continue providing support for drought-stricken farmers.

In a press conference, May 2, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, lead convener of Artists for Kidapawan (A4K), called on fellow artists “to answer the call for militant aid to peasants.”

On April 1, police forces fired upon farmers demanding rice subsidy and other forms of assistance from government in Kidapawan City. Two were killed and scores were injured. Seventy-nine farmers were arrested, detained and charged with criminal offenses.

Lumbera described the April 1 dispersal, arrest and detention of Cotabato farmers as “outrageous.” He said that the charges are clearly trumped-up and should be dismissed immediately.

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera calls on fellow artists to answer the call for militant aid to peasants during the launch of Artists for Kidapawan, May 2, in Quezon City. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)
National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera calls on fellow artists to answer the call for militant aid to peasants during the launch of Artists for Kidapawan, May 2, in Quezon City. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

Lumbera branded the government’s El Nino response as “a reflection of the panginoong maylupa (landlord) mentality of the President and his immediate allies.”

Renan Ortiz, spokesperson of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), said “the impact of El Nino on the lives and welfare of Filipino farmers is unprecedented because of the worsening climate change and partly because the incumbent and soon-to-end Aquino administration has done essentially nothing to mitigate its impact.”

To date, various artists from different fields have actively provided material and moral support forthe farmers and produced artworks to raise the consciousness of the public on the plight of farmers.

At least 150 musicians led by the League of Authors of Public Interest Songs (LAPIS) signed a joint statement condemning the April 1 incident and urging the government to heed the demand of farmers for quick and swift distribution of aid.

On April 30 and May 1, cultural groups Sinagbayan, Sining Kadamay and Tambisan sa Sining mounted a series of street performances in Manila. Several concerts and poetry readings have been staged in support of the farmers. New songs were composed and performed by various artists.

Continuous support needed

Jerome Succor Aba, a survivor of the Kidapawan incident, thanked the artists who have stood in solidarity with the farmers.
Aba said that one month after the incident, the government has yet to provide substantial aid for the farmers. He said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) only offered three kilos of rice per family.

Aba said that through the rice donations from private individuals, including artists, each farmer who joined the barricade was able to take home 25 kilos of rice. Aba said, however, the supply would not be able to sustain the farmers for the next months. “That’s why we continue to demand the release of calamity funds from government,” Aba said, noting that North Cotabato has allocated more than P300-million calamity fund for El Nino.

Aba said that in the past weeks, farmers from other drought-affected provinces in Mindanao also staged protest actions to demand food subsidy. “Instead of providing the much-needed aid, some of them have been slapped with criminal charges,” Aba said.

Five of those who joined last week’s barricade in Koronadal City, South Cotabato have been charged with illegal assembly. Police authorities charged Ryan Lariba of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socksargen; Ali Macalintal of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Lito Roxas of Kilusang Mayo Unio, Domingo Azores; and, Norsam Wahabi of violating the Marcos-era decree Batas Pambansa 880.

Aba lamented that the charges against Cotabato farmers have not been junked up to now. The farmers have been released on bail.
Marco Silvano of KMP’s cultural arm Sinagbayan called on fellow artists to rally behind the farmers’ demands for food, aid and justice.

Lumbera encouraged Filipino artists to come to the aid of farmers in whatever way, through artwork, food contributions and other forms of assistance.

Challenge to Poe, Duterte

The A4K also took the opportunity to challenge Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the perceived frontrunners in the presidential race.

“What we want is for the next presidency to put farmers and their welfare on top of their economic and political agenda,” Ortiz said.

The A4K said that in the first 100 days, the next president should stop Lumad killings, bring justice to the victims of the Kidapawan carnage and provide meaningful support for farmers affected by El Nino.(https://www.bulatlat.com)

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