By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – Peasant groups are all set for the big protest in Mendiola on Oct. 25, as they intensify the call for genuine agrarian reform and a stop to extrajudicial killings.
Today, Oct. 23, farmers from Visayas and Bicol are expected to arrive in the camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City. On October 24, various mobilizations will be held in the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the national headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Last night, 28 buses from Bicol were held up by police in Lucena City, Quezon province, a move seen as harassment on the peasant protesters.
To generate support from the youth and the public, the farmers welcomed students, journalists, and campus publications inside their camp for a kapihan on Oct. 22. Farmers from the BUFFALO-TAMARAW-LIMUS (BTL) Federation and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries One Movement (AOM)-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) shared stories about their struggle for genuine agrarian reform and justice.
“Ang buwan ng Oktubre ay isang buwan para sa kampanya ng mga magsasaka dahil sa panahon ni Marcos dineklara niya ang PD 27, isang batas para daw sa reporma sa lupa subalit umabot na ang 45 years ng PD 27, kasama na rito ang Republic Act 6657 ni Corazon Aquino, hanggang magkaroon ng CARPER, pero hanggang ngayon wala pa ring lupa ang mga magsasaka,” Antonio Flores, Secretary General of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said during the event.
(October is the month for the farmers’ campaign which commemorates Marcos’s declaration of Presidential Decree 27, supposedly a land reform law, but it has already been 45 years since PD 27, succeeded by Corazon Aquino’s RA 6657, and eventually CARPER, yet farmers still have no land to till.)
CARP, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, aimed to distribute farm lands, with a three to five-hectare retention limit for landlords. It was enacted in 1988 under the first Aquino administration and had expired after 20 years, in 2008. In 2009, Congress then passed CARPER law, or CARP Extension with Reforms, which expired in 2104.
While vast agricultural lands have already been declared under CARP coverage, many are yet to be distributed as landlords found ways to circumvent the law through land use conversion or reclassification. In other cases, the landowners simply refuse to obey even the order of the Supreme Court. One significant example is the case of plantation workers in the Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco).
Huel Hoyle, chairperson of AOM-SMR, explained that even with a Supreme Court decision declaring part of the Floirendo property for agricultural purposes, the land remains undistributed to the farmers. Without an installation order from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), they remain only as landless, underpaid and overworked agricultural workers of the TADECO plantation of Cavendish bananas for export.
Representatives from the BTL Federation invited everyone to join the succeeding build-up activities before the nationwide mobilization on Oct. 25.
The struggle for the tiller’s right to land requires support from the ranks of peasant women and youth, said the groups.
Michael Pineda of BTL-Youth encouraged the youth to take an active part in the campaign of farmers for genuine agrarian reform, as he explained the experience of the youth in Bukidnon. He said that the youth are largely affected by the dispute between the farmers and Central Mindanao University (CMU). In fact, they would have to use a different address if they want to enroll in CMU because the administration already tags them as “rebels and informal settlers.”
“Kaming mga kabataan, bilang mabubuting anak ng bayan, kami po ang dudugtong sa pakikibaka ng aming mga magulang dahil para po sa amin, nakikita po namin, sa totoo lang…na wala sa intensyon ng gobyerno ang pagresolba sa problema ng mga magsasaka dahil sa kasalukuyan, walang tunay na reporma sa lupa na ginawa ang ating pamahalaan para lutasin ang problema ng mga magsasaka,” Pineda said.
(We, the youth, as worthy children of the people, are the ones who will carry on the struggle of our parents, as we see that government does not intend to resolve the problem of the peasantry, and there is no genuine agrarian reform program.)
Dolores Gogodan of Amihan BTL explained that women also play a crucial role in their campaign. She said that it is important for them to fight together with their husbands. She said those who try to disperse peasant barricades hesitate when they see women in the front.
“Nakikiisa po kaming mga kababaihan na kami dapat ang manguna sa pakikibaka. Sa mga nilunsad namin na bungkalan ng lupa, kailangan kami po ‘yong nasa harap kasi nakita nga namin na kapag kaming kababaihan ang nandiyan sa harap, mahihiya naman siguro sila na pagalitan kami katulad nang barilin kami o saktan,” she said.
However, she said that there are instances when security guards or private guards of CMU reigned terror in the 517-hectare property, which resulted to the death of one of their leaders, Leonardo Loable, father of Winnie Loable, the chairperson of BTL Federation. In another clash, Winnie himself got shot and several others were injured.
On Oct. 25, thousands of farmers from around the Philippines will march to Mendiola to call and end to fascism and Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao and for genuine agrarian reform. As of this writing, farmers from Visayas and Bicol are already on their way to the National Capital Region (NCR).
“We are inviting broad sectors and personalities who joined the September 21 rallies to unite with farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolks and rural poor. Farmers and peasants across the country are among the main casualties of Duterte’s Martial Law, militarization and creeping iron-hand rule,” Flores said in a statement.