By AIRA MARIE SIGUENZA
MANILA – Local onion farmers are up in arms over the reported red-tagging and harassment of those who testified in a recent Senate hearing to assail price manipulation and call out unscrupulous traders, calling it an “added burden” to their plight.
During a recent Senate committee hearing, farmers shared the difficulties they are facing, particularly the debts and losses they have incurred from planting and selling onions.
Merly Gallardo, wife of one of the deceased farmers, testified in the upper house committee saying that their onion farm was infested with armyworms, a destructive pest, causing them to lose millions, and how onion importation will not help them.
Days later, it was revealed that police officers went to their house under the supposed orders of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and allegedly harassed the farmer.
“This latest red-tagging and harassment by the PNP and local ELCAC is an added burden to onion farmers affected by price manipulation of unscrupulous traders. We challenge Senator Imee Marcos to probe the red tagging against farmers,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said in a statement.
Kabataan Partylist Representative Raoul Manuel said that the harassment against onion farmers proves that the NTF-ELCAC and its red-tagging only serve the interest of the elite.
“This incident proves that red-tagging endangers the lives of ordinary Filipinos who only express legitimate concerns to the government. Second, the NTF-ELCAC is only an instrument of corrupt businessmen and the upper class. We should not waste funds for this task force who are cumbersome to our farmers,” said Manuel.
Local and international human rights groups have long criticized the dangers of red-tagging as it precedes graver forms of abuses against human rights defenders and critics, and is used to stifle dissent.
Under former president Rodrigo Duterte, the KMP recorded 344 peasants extrajudicially killed and 26 incidents of massacres because of land disputes.
Read: 34 years after the Mendiola massacre, farmers still being killed for fighting for land
Days before the remembrance, KMP called for lawmakers to officially enact House Bill 1112, filed by the Makabayan Bloc, declaring January 22 of every year as National Farmers Day, which is also the commemoration of the Mendiola Massacre, which left 13 farmers killed.
“Declaring January 22 as National Farmers Day will serve as a remembrance of the victims and survivors of the Mendiola Massacre last 1987…36 years after the massacre, justice has not yet been served for the farmers,” said KMP. (RTS, JJE)