By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Farmers and fishermen around the Philippines are set to converge in Manila for the protest caravan dubbed Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo to be held from October 16 to 25.
Danilo Ramos, chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said the month-long protest for Peasant Month is a call for the Duterte administration to fulfill its promise of genuine agrarian reform and to put an end to state fascism. The nine-day campaign takes place amid the ongoing martial law in Mindanao and President Duterte’s waning popularity due to drug-related killings.
Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano joined other peasant leaders in the media forum held in Quezon City today, October 10. After a year in office, Mariano was rejected by the Commission on Appointments, the last among the three progressive Cabinet officials appointed by Duterte.
The peasant protest caravan closely follows the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya of the Moro and indigenous peoples in September.
Bogus land reform programs
This Oct. 21 marks 45 years after the enactment of Presidential Decree No. 27 of the Marcos Dictatorship. This year is also the 30th year of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), yet the distribution of agricultural land to the farmers remain an elusive goal.
“Ito naman na ang matagal nang hinihintay ng mga magsasaka: Ipamahagi na sa mga tunay na beneficiaries (This is what farmers have long aspired for: the distribution of land to who should be the beneficiaries),” Alberto Cafe of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) One Movement asserted.
Despite the issuance of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and notices of coverage under CARP, big landlords evade the distribution to the farmers by declaring that the property is reserved for commercial use. For instance, farmers in Lupang Kapdula and Lupang Ramos in Cavite are in imminent danger of losing their land because of its reclassification for the creation of a subdivision. In Bukidnon, a 3,401-hectare land was reclassified for “educational and scientific purposes” after the issuance of CLOAs to the farmers.
Other agricultural lands declared for distribution remain in the hands of the landlords.
“Mismong ang programang pinatupad gaya ng PD 27 at Comprehesive Agrarian Reform Program — habang ito ay namamahagi ng lupa, sa kabilang banda naman ay binabawi, kinakansela ang iba’t ibang titulo bunga ng patuloy na pagpapalit-gamit ng mga lupain gaya ng mga subdivision, golf courses, industrial use, commercial use ng lupa (Government implement programs such as PD 27 and CARP, which may distribute some lands, which are then revoked, as they cancel land titles due to land conversion for subdivisions, golf courses, industrial and commercial use),” Joseph Canlas of AMGL KMP said.
In Pampanga and Zambales, Aboitiz Power has already obtained permits to construct a geothermal power plant. The construction will affect a mountainous area where indigenous people live and chemicals from the powerplant and its construction will greatly affect nearby farms.
With the Build, Build, Build program of the Duterte administration, several agricultural lands in Central Luzon will also be affected by the construction of expressways, dams, and a military complex for the Air Force where Balikatan exercises will be held with the US troops.
Peasant arrests and killings
Attacks on peasants and peasant leaders have been prevalent even before the Duterte administration. In Kidapawan, farmers were met with bullets when they held a mobilization to ask for support during the period of drought. For more than a decade after the incident, perpetrators of the Hacienda Luisita massacre have not been held accountable.
These attacks have escalated with Duterte’s war on drugs and counter-insurgency programs. Targeted against the poor, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) recorded that out of 88 extrajudicial killings recorded up to August 2017, 81 victims belong to the peasant sector.
“Kung kaming magsasaka, bihasa sa pagtatanim ng palay at butil, ang PNP ay bihasa sa pagtatanim ng shabu, baril, bala, bihasa sa pagpaslang at ilegal na pag-aresto,” Ramos told reporters.
“Iisa lang ang panawagan: Lupa, hindi bomba; bigas, hindi bala (We have only one call: Land, not bombs; rice, not bullets),” he added.
In Batangas, the counter-insurgency responses of the government after an alleged encounter between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are aerial bombings and a lockdown on all fact-finding and solidarity missions.
The aerial bombings have affected the livelihood of farmers and fishermen, forcing them to flee from their lands. The surge of mining operations also pose a danger to their livelihood because the chemicals used can contaminate the land and produce.
In the towns of Baha and Talibayog, community leaders were arrested allegedly for illegal possession of firearms. Last month, the Vice President of Samahan ng Maliliiit na Mangingisda at Magsasaka sa Calatagan (SMMMC), Engracio delos Reyes, was shot by two armed men inside his house. SMMMC actively campaigns against the mining operations of Asturias Chemical Industries in Calatagan.
‘Not for the masses’
During Duterte’s campaign for presidency, he visited the farmers in Davao and told them that he understood the plight for the farmers, the importance of free irrigation, and the failure of previous land reform programs.
Fernando Hicap of PAMALAKAYA and former Anakpawis partylist representative said Duterte appeared to take the side of farmers and fisherfolk, but has only reneged on his promises. “Ito po ay isang malaking kasinungalingan (This is a big lie),” he said.
“When Ka Paeng (Rafael) Mariano was rejected as DAR secretary, it became clear that President Duterte supports only landlords, foreign transnational corporations,” Hicap said in Filipino.
Antonio Flores, Secretary General of KMP, narrated that during Duterte’s incumbency as mayor of Davao, plantations multiplied. Instead of planting rice and other crops for food security, the plantations established were for products to be exported, such as banana, palm oil, and pineapples.
Hicap said the decline in the satisfaction rating of the president is the legitimate sentiment and outrage of the people.
KMP, AMGL, PAMALAKAYA, ARB One Movement, and KASAMA-TK invite everyone to join the activities during the peasant month, as tens of thousands of farmers travel to Manila to reiterate their call for genuine agrarian reform, economic reforms, and justice for slain and detained farmers.
“Hangga’t walang fundamental na social and economic reforms sa ating bansa, hindi po mawawakasan, hindi mabubunot ang root cause ng agrarian unrest, social unrest, at conflict sa ating bansa (As long as there is no social and economic reforms in the country, the root cause of agrarian and social unrest in the country will not be resolved),” said former DAR secretary Mariano.
He added that the implementation of social and economic reforms should be the first step to attaing long-lasting peace in the country. Mariano lambasted Duterte’s iron-fist tendencies and talks of his looming imposition of martial rule.
“Ang martial law ay hindi solusyon sa social problems and economic crisis sa ating bansa. Ang deklarasyon ng martial law nationwide ay magbubunga lang ng mas marami pang mga kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao at mga kaso ng political and extrajudicial killings,” he said.