Government data showed that farmers, fishermen and children of poor families posted the highest poverty incidence.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – For many years, Filipino farmers have considered October as Peasant Month, culminating every 21st, the anniversary of the promulgation of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27.
Marcos signed on October 21, 1972 P.D. 27, ordering the “emancipation of tenant farmers of rice and corn lands.” P.D. 27 and other agrarian reform programs of the succeeding administrations not only failed to address landlessness but also facilitated the reconcentration of agricultural land to landlords, peasant groups say.
According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), seven out of ten farmers remain landless. Data from Landbank shows that 75 percent of amortizing agrarian reform beneficiaries were not able to pay, while the rest are still subjected to various forms of land distribution circumvention by landlords.
Even the lands placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) have not been completely distributed. In April this year, Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones admitted that around 500,000 hectares of land still need to be distributed to beneficiaries. He said that most of these lands are in Isabela, Quezon, Bicol, Leyte and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The absence of genuine agrarian reform is the main reason why farmers are holding protests, which they dubbed as October Resistance.
Duterte no agrarian reform agenda
KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a press conference this week that the October Resistance is the response of farmers, fisherfolks, peasant women, indigenous people and rural sectors to the “callousness of the Duterte regime.”
No law has replaced the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program after it expired in June 2014.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has no agrarian reform agenda,” Zenaida Soriano, chairperson of peasant women’s group Amihan said.
Soriano said agricultural lands are still controlled by the rich and elite few.
In Central Luzon alone, thousands of hectares of land are converted to pave way for Duterte’s Build, Build, Build projects, mining operations, and other so-called development projects.
Joseph Canlas of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson said these projects have resulted in massive landgrabbing and land-use conversion.
The peasant groups are pushing for passage of the House Bill No. 555 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao. The bill, which espouses free distribution of land to poor farmers, is gathering dust at the committee level.
Food producers among the poorest, hungriest
This feudal bondage has continued to impoverish of farmers and agricultural workers. Soriano said that peasant women are most affected by hunger and poverty.
In 2017, data from Philippine Statistics Authority showed that farmers, fishermen and children of poor families posted the highest poverty incidence.
Sugar workers, meanwhile, are among the lowest paid, according to Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA). In 2016, the group found out that workers from Mindanao were paid less than P10 (US$ 0.80) a day in Hacienda Luisita.
Gi Estrada of UMA said that workers in Cagayan Valley get P170 (US$3) per day while those in Negros are paid P5,000 ($92) per month.
Fisherfolk, meanwhile, are burdened with the excise tax on oil brought about by Duterte’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. Pamalakaya revealed that fisherfolk now shell out P140 (US$2.5) more per fishing trip.
Soriano blamed Duterte’s adherence to neoliberal policies of liberalizing agriculture for the plight of farmers and fisherfolk. Instead of boosting local production, Duterte and the previous administrations relied on importation, she said.
Soriano added that the impending tariffication of rice imports will not bring down the prices of rice but will endanger the country’s food security.
Attacks on farmers, fisherfolk
The farmers are also protesting what they called as the government’s heightened crackdown against activists amid the Red October being peddled by the military.
In the morning of October 6, Jaime Delos Santos, 62, chairman of Pamalakaya in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental was gunned down in front of a bakery by unknown assailants. Delos Santos died from six gunshot wounds.
On the same day, Daniel Tejamo, leader of Bugsay Mangingisda was shot dead at Libertad, Negros Oriental.
Delos Santos spearheaded campaigns in his community, particularly against the imposition of exorbitant fees and taxes in the sea while Tejamo was very vocal against the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels in Tañon Strait, a protected seascape located between the islands of Cebu and Negros.
Earlier this year, on July 23, Alberto Tecson, the predecessor of Delos Santos in Pamalakaya Negros, was shot dead in front of his family.
KMP said there have been 161 peasants killed under Duterte. Twenty-three of the victims were women, six were children, and 22 were elderly.
Meanwhile, in Northern Mindanao, 34 activists were charged with trumped-up murder and frustrated murder charges. Among the accused were KMP National Council Member Ereneo Udarbe ,Arturo Colao, and Gerry Basahon, leader of Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA).
Basahon was arrested Oct. 4, in Purok 1, Barangay 26, Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental by members of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Another warrant of arrest for arson and attempted murder dated April 23, 2018 was issued against KMP Caraga leader Jeremias Numeral of the Nagkakaisang Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Sur (NAMASUR).
Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said that the latest trumped-up criminal charges are meant to harass, threaten and intimidate farmers and peasant leaders who are leading and carrying out land reform struggles in their respective provinces and regions.
A series of protest actions will be staged by KMP chapters all over the country, setting Oct. 19 as the nationally-coordinated day of action against poverty, hunger and state-fascism.
Ramos said that farmers and agricultural workers are also planning to launch more bungkalan (land occupation) to fight poverty and hunger.