Danilo Ramos and his work as a steadfast peasant leader

By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – It seemed only yesterday when long-time farmer leader Danilo Ramos was at the forefront of denouncing the passing of the anti-terror law.

When the draconian Anti-Terrorism Law took effect, Ramos was among the petitioners who called out on its unconstitutionality on July 20, 2023, representing the peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

On July 17, 2007, he was also among those who challenged the constitutionality of the Human Security Act of 2007, the predecessor of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Now, he is subjected to a series of apparent surveillance and manhunt, with motorcycle-riding men telling his relatives in his Bulacan home on Jan. 3 and 15 that they have been trying to locate him “since he is a terrorist.”

This was not the first time for Ramos to experience harassment. On Aug. 9, 2023, six (6) unidentified men were reportedly asking for the whereabouts of Ramos in Malolos City, Bulacan, on at least four instances. A roadside CCTV caught one of the men conducting surveillance activities.

These acts of terrorist tagging and series of surveillance have put the life not just of Ramos, but also of his entire family who are under the constant threat of life and security. The KMP submitted a report to UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan concerning these threats to Ramos and the peasant sector.

In this report they mentioned that Ramos is a constant victim of state surveillance, pointing out that more than 90 percent of the victims of political imprisonment and extra-judicial killings came from the peasant sector.

But who is Ramos?

A church worker turned activist

The leadership of Ramos has been credible, consistent, and full of courage. A 2004 Bulatlat article described how he offered his life in the service of poor and peasant communities as a parish officer and peasant leader, respectively.

Growing up as a landless farmer himself, Ramos was awakened at a very young age to the realities of the situation of farmers.

He witnessed how the landlord in their community lived like gods. He immersed himself in farm production after finishing his basic education.

He first served the church community as part of the Kristyanong Kapatiran in Sta. Isabel Parish. Later on, he became an officer of the Council of Formation and Community on Service of the Parish Pastoral Council.

Serving the church exposed him to the realities in Philippine society, beyond the farmlands. His work was also recognized at the diocese level.

Soon after, his faith also became the foundation for why he decided to organize peasant communities.

In 1983, he served as the secretary-general of Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulacan (AMB). He also became the spokesperson of Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) in 1988.

Now, he is the chairperson of the KMP where he assumed key roles from November 1995.

As champion of farmers

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) described Ramos as a steadfast leader, who, despite the attacks, remains to be critical and outspoken about the government policies that affect farmers, fisherfolks, and the rural sectors.

Notably, he joined several initiatives, probing the human rights violations in peasant communities. In 2013, he was arrested along with several human rights defenders while on a fact-finding mission in Hacienda Luisita.

He was also part of the fact-finding mission in the Negros Oriental in April 2019, gathering accounts and testimonies from the families of Oplan Sauron victims.

Beyond his participation in human rights investigations, Ramos also voiced his opposition on the anti-people programs of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and the Malacanang.

Among these programs he opposed is the National Land Use Bill last year, which is a priority legislation of the administration of Marcos Jr.

He mentioned that the bill would only worsen the land-use conversion, which only put farmers into further landlessness. He also criticized the statement of the bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Bingo Matugas, who said that the bill will be a “game-changer in terms of foreign investment for the Philippines.”

This is not the only case where he actively responded to government policies that seem to put farmers in an aggravating situation. He stood against the Maharlika Investment Fund, the Food Stamp Program, and the appointment of the new DA secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr.

No to terror law

In the roster of KMP’s statements, Ramos is very active in proposing solutions and condemning human rights violations in the country.

He also carried the banner of the peasant sector as one of the petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Law. He cited the case of Aeta farmers Jasper Gurung and Junior Ramos, who were the first casualties of the Anti-Terrorism Law in September 2020 for standing against the militarization in their community.

Given his work as a peasant leader, many groups sound their alarm and stand in solidarity with him.

The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women said that Ramos is among the leaders who is actively campaigning for genuine land reform and free land distribution.

“He is also instrumental in fighting (against) land-grabbing and displacement of farmers, militarization in the far-flung communities, neoliberal importation policies, and for ending the NTF-ELCAC and Anti-Terror Law,” Amihan said in their statement.

In 2007, Ramos was among those in the peasant sector who helped craft the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which seeks to kickstart free land distribution, and reengineer agriculture to make it responsive to the needs of the country. Decades have passed and the GARB is yet to be approved by the Marcos Jr. administration.

Ramos himself denied the allegations that he is a terrorist. He said in a video statement, “Our work is dignified and important for the country.”

“What’s wrong and more threatening is that the state forces, the Marcos Jr. administration, the AFP and PNP, are responding with violence to farmers who are seeking land and justice, who provide food for the country,” Ramos added.

Meanwhile, peasant advocates from the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) Youth also said that the attacks against Ramos translate to the current situation of the peasant sector in the country.

“Militarization intensifies in the rural communities, particularly in the Southern Tagalog Region and Negros Region,” NNARA Youth stated in their statement.

Karapatan’s recent data on human rights violations in rural communities are as follows: 22,391 victims of bombings in the far-flung areas, 39, 769 victims of indiscriminate firing in military operations, and 25,000 people displaced.

The escalating cases of harassment against Ramos prompted Tanggol Magsasaka to immediately submit a report to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

From the administration of Marcos Sr. to Marcos Jr, Ramos is steadfast in genuinely representing the plight of the farmers and peasant masses. (JJE, RTS)  (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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