For farmers, Martial Law wounds remain painful

Calls for genuine agrarian reform remain as Filipinos commemorate first People Power uprising (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

For Filipino farmers, no amount of historical distortion can wash away the sins of martial law.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – For Filipino farmers, the wounds that the Marcos dictatorship inflicted are still painful and cannot be ignored.

In a statement, farm workers group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said that farmers today are reeling from the policies imposed during the Marcos dictatorship, describing these as a “sabotage of Philippine agriculture.”

These policies include the further consolidation of the plantation system in the country, of which 1.2 million hectares of land is still controlled by big corporations through lopsided agri-business venture arrangements, said UMA.

“Too much violence had been directed at us. Our wounds run too deep for us to forget,” said Antonio Flores, chairperson of UMA.

Plantations

Flores said that as the plantation system grew under the Marcos dictatorship, land became even more out of reach for ordinary farmers. He said that they were pushed instead to lopsided relations with agricultural companies where “they earned less and less as agricultural workers.”

Such slave-like conditions that farm workers face today, the peasant leader said, “had been put in place early on by the Marcos dictatorship.”

Of the plantations that were consolidated during the martial law days, UMA said this benefited the likes of Antonio Floirendo, Sr., whom the farm workers group said was a crony of Marcos Sr.

Through investment corporation Anflocor and Floirendo’s Tagum Development Company, UMA said he “earned the moniker ‘banana king’ for his exportation of the high-value crop to Japan during martial law.” Tadeco’s 6,000-hectare land soon grew by another 4,000.

There are also at least 32,000 hectares consolidated into banana and pineapple plantations now under Dole Philippines.

Meanwhile, the Campos family, whose patriarch Jose Yao Campos served as financial advisor to the late dictator, has acquired Del Monte Philippines, with no less than 25,000 hectares dedicated to pineapples alone.

“Fake land reform under the tyrant covered up his sell-out of the peasantry to imperialist forces,” said Flores.

Sugar export during the 1970s, on the other hand, was also monopolized by Roberto Benedicto, an ally of dictator Marcos dictatorship. Through his Philippine Exchange Company (Philex) and the National Sugar Trading Corporation (Nasutra), UMA said Benedicto “plunged all of Negros island into destitution, buying sugar from the country’s hacienda capital for cheap in order to sell it dear to the US market, criminally shortchanging sugar planters and workers in the process.”

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, in a separate statement, noted that these vast plantations were then exempted from Presidential Decree No. 27, which served as framework of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Sham projects for farmers

Farmers join commemoration of first People Power uprising (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

Instead of providing social services to Filipino farmers, KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said that the dictator Marcos, as seen in his Masagana 99 agricultural program, had “ultimately surrendered agriculture to foreign interests and pushed millions of farmers into bankruptcy.”

KMP said that instead of ending hunger and food shortage, the program swelled grain production costs by 89 percent and buried farmers in debt.

The farmers group said that such high-value crops also had adverse impacts on the environment and on the farmers’ health.

KMP added that the Marcos dictatorship facilitated the stealing of the P105 billion in coco levy funds from poor coconut farmers. The collected taxes were meant to support the livelihood of coconut farmers and the coconut industry but KMP said the funds were instead “looted by Marcos and his cronies.”

Attacks against farmers

Farmers who pushed back during Martial Law also faced violent attacks.

Among these included the Escalante Massacre on Sep. 20, 1985, Guinayangan Massacre on Feb. 1, 1981, Daet Massacre on June 14, 1981, and Sag-od Massacre on Sept. 15, 1981.

Ramos said that many farming communities now continue to face violent attacks, with lands still controlled by Marcos allies like the Cojuangcos, Aranetas, and Enriles.

Flores said that Filipino farmers are also commemorating the toppling of the dictatorship 36 years ago because, “no matter how hard the tyrant’s son tries to deodorize his father’s name, we can still smell the stench of death on Bongbong Marcos. No amount of historical distortion will wash it away.” (DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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