By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — On February 26, farmers from Eastern Visayas who have travelled all the way to Manila to bring to the attention of the government and general public their plight, amplify their calls, and gather support for their campaigns.
“Nandito kami sa Maynila dahil ang mga magsasaka na lumilikha ng pagkain, nagugutom at naghihirap dahil napeste ang mga pananim namin, (We travelled to Manila because farmers who produce food are hungry and becoming poorer because our crops have been destroyed by pests.)” said Jun Berino, leader of Samahan Han Ngan Gudti Parag-uma Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB).
To seek a dialogue with Agriculture Sec. Emmanuel Piñol, the farmers planned to hold a three-day camp out in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) office at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City. As reported by the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA), they have already submitted their letter-request for a dialogue to Piñol’s office as early as February 8, but have yet to receive a response. In the letter, they also informed the DA about the campout.
Upon building their camp, however, elements of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) demolished their tents and even harassed some of the farmers.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) promptly condemned the violent dispersal of the Samar farmers.
“We condemn the violent dispersal of the camp-out of farmers from Samar at the Department of Agriculture national office in Quezon City. More than twenty armed Quezon City PNP led by Police Major Gerry Adriano dispersed the camp-out despite the assertion of farmers,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
“We have exhausted all means possible to appeal, protest and plead with local agriculture officials in our provinces, but our demands were not answered. We were hoping that Sec. Manny Piñol would face us and hear out our demands but it turned out that he has snubbed us and disregarded our demands,” Berino said.
“We only wanted to talk to Sec. Piñol, he added.
There were reports that the QCPD would demolish the campout again in the morning of February 27, but through a series of negotiations, the farmers have now been allowed to stay in front of the DA office. The farmers are requesting for material, food, or financial assistance, and are set to stay in Manila until March 8.