By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – A leader of coconut farmers in Quezon was shot dead, November 14, by unknown assailants.
Armando Buisan, chairperson of the General Luna chapter of Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM), was found dead in barangay Santa Maria, Catanauan, some 24 kilometers from where he lived, according to initial reports by Karapatan Quezon.
Buisan was a copra farmer and a resident of sitio Luyahan, barangay Magsaysay, General Luna, Quezon. He fought for the rights of coconut farmers in the community for almost three decades and was a well-known leader.
Buisan, who was 60 when he was gunned down, was subjected to harassment over the years. In 2019, the military presented him alongside 39 others as a “rebel surrenderee” in a staged ceremony in General Luna.
“The farmers’ call for higher prices of copra and lukad (coconut meat) and for aid, in this time of successive storms and a pandemic, were met with summary killings from the state and the military,” said Orly Marcellana, secretary-general of the regional farmers’ organization Katipunan ng Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK).
In a statement, Karapatan Timog Katagalugan decried the “latest cases of extra-judicial killing during the time of pandemic.”
“Although a storm had just passed over the province, human rights violations are still rampant and the desperate moves of these butchers in government still prevail. They still prioritize their bloody counter-insurgency operation, affecting civilians, instead of assisting those affected by the storm,” the group said.
General Luna is part of the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon. Three successive storms (Typhoon Quinta, Supertyphoon Rolly, and Typhoon Ulysses, international names Molave, Goni, and Vamco, respectively) hit the area in the span of one month and caused widespread devastation and flooding in the area.
A large number of evacuees have yet to return, while houses and crops were ruined. The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, estimates that the three storms caused over P10 billion worth of damage nationwide.
Adding to this, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still felt in General Luna as limited transportation and months of economic shutdown have severely affected the coconut farmers in the area. Groups like KASAMA-TK and CLAIM have long clamored for additional aid and subsidies to farmers, as well as price controls to protect against losses in profit.
Despite all of this, however, reports from progressive organizations Anakbayan Quezon and Karapatan Quezon state that police and military units, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 85th Infantry Battalion, remain active in “harassing farmers and accusing them of being members of the New People’s Army.”