Peasant groups slam redbaiting of Negros’ land cultivation

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO:Progressive leaders in formation while sowing mung bean seeds in Balete village, Tarlac City inside Hacienda Luisita (Photo by Dee Ayroso/Bulatlat)

The bungkalan has been the NFSW’s campaign since 2008 for sugar workers to survive Tiempo Muerto or “dead season”, the period between planting and harvesting sugarcane. It usually lasts five months from April to September resulting to massive hunger among the farm workers.

By BULATLAT

MANILA – The National Federation of Sugar Workers condemned the recent statement of the Negros-based, 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army that bungkalan or land cultivation areas (LCAs) are used by the New People’s Army to fund what they described as the “higher echelons of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”

In a statement, the group lambasted 303rd Infantry Brigade commander Brigadier General Eliezer Losañes and spokesman Captain Ruel Llanes for redbaiting the LCAs.

“These two outrageous officers’ lies, especially Llanes’ claim of a ‘source’ within the so-called rebels ‘Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros,’ would be laughable if not for the deadly implications they hold for the farmers and farm workers of an island that remains the epitome of the feudal nature of Philippine society,” the group said in a statement.

The group called the statement as malicious by “linking their efforts to ward off hunger through communal farming to the armed struggle being waged by the NPAs.”

The bungkalan has been the NFSW’s campaign since 2008 for sugar workers to survive Tiempo Muerto or “dead season”, the period between planting and harvesting sugarcane. It usually lasts five months from April to September resulting to massive hunger among the farm workers.

Read: As dead season continues, sugar workers occupy land for survival

The NFSW pointed out that it is by this reason why the farm workers decided to launch the campaign to ward off the inevitable hunger brought by the dead season. The farm workers had occupied idled lands and lands which are covered by agrarian reform but remain undistributed and planted vegetables, banana, corn and other crops to feed their families.

Read: Nueva Ecija bungkalan|‘Our struggle put food on our table’

“The goal of establishing the LCAs is for the farmers and farm workers to fully enjoy the fruit of their labor,” the group said.

Slideshow: ‘Bungkalan’ Improved Lives of Luisita Farmers

It added, “The many LCAs established in Negros are a reflection of government’s failure to implement even its bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) and are not, as Losañes ridiculously claims, a ‘land grab’ by the rebels.”

Read: Tiempo Muerto Stalks Negros Sugar Workers Year-round

Meanwhile, National Federation of Peasant Women (Aminhan) national chairperson Zen Soriano said that by redbaiting the LCAs, the military justifies its attacks against the farmers and farm workers who are struggling against land grabbing, poverty and hunger.

“It is an utter display of ignorance on the historical struggle of the peasantry if not an outright parade of subservience to protect the interests of landlords,” Soriano said.

In fact, Soriano said that LCAs have been constantly under attack under President Duterte’s administration.

On Feb. 22, Ronald Manlanat, a member of the NFSW engaged in LCA of farmers in Hacienda Joefred in Luna village, Sagay, Negros Oriental was brutally killed by unidentified assailants.

In other provinces, those who are engaging in the LCAs are slapped with alleged trumped-up charges and harassment.

Amihan said in San Andres, Quezon province 36 farmers and peasant leaders in Hacienda Uy are facing trumped-up criminal charges filed by local landlord Dr. Uy. This is after farmers have successfully fenced off portions of their 385 hectares LCA to keep their crops from being damaged.

Farmers in LCA in the 372 hectare land estate Lupang Ramos in Dasmarinas, Cavite were intimidated by members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion when they attempted to enter the LCA wearing full battle gear last March.

Farmers group BTL (BUFFALO-TAMARAW-LIMUS) in the LCA in Maramag, Bukidnon were threatened and harassed by the soldiers as they went to the village, asked for their leaders’ names, their whereabouts and accused them of being NPA supporters.

Amid the threats and possible escalation of attacks against the farmers and farm workers, the NFSW said that they are not and will not be cowed. They vow to “strengthen the unity of peasants and farm workers to advance the struggle for land, justice and freedom.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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