Peasant groups off to Central Luzon for 3-day caravan protest
by Roy Morilla and Gigi Babon, contributors
Manila, Philippines- Rural based activist groups will kick off a three-day caravan starting Oct.18 dubbed as Peasant Caravan for Land and Justice in Central Luzon, according to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the main organizer of the event.
The militant peasant alliance will be joined by allied groups— the fisherfolk federation Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the Amihan peasant women association, the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Anakpawis party list and the Central Luzon farmer group Alyansa ng Mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), as announced by KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press conference held in Quezon City this morning.
The peasant solidarity mission would be on caravan towards Bgy. Sibul, San Miguel, Bulacan on the first day to give relief goods to farmers whose crops were destroyed by typhoon Pepeng. Their 375 hectares of rich agricultural lands in Sitio Malapad na Parang are being landgrabbed by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte. On the second day, they would proceed towards Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City, but at Gapan area, would be joined by farmers from Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Laur, Nueva Ecija, and farmer-victims of massive cancellations of Emancipation Patents (EP) and Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ or CARPer.
Relief for typhoon victims
“We are gearing up for our relief efforts for our members in Central Luzon, particularly in San Miguel town in Bulacan, for Fort Magsaysay and southern towns of Nueva Ecija, and for the agricultural workers of Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos.
“It is very obvious that the farmers are the worst-hit by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. Their houses were destroyed and worse, the very crops their livelihood depends on were in deep waters. This is one of the worst of the worst that could happen to Filipino farmers, already being snatched of their lands and being victims of natural calamities,” said Ramos.
“Though it looks like that we are helpless with weather conditions, we firmly believe that there are man-made causes that brought to further disasters such as mining, logging, land use conversion and the irresponsible operation of dams. We believe that government inefficiency and corruption of billions of pesos of calamity funds added to the toll of the typhoons,” added Ramos.
“Just 30 mins away from Quezon City, quarrying operations in Montalban, Rizal are now in full operation, and many subdivisions in Rizal towns such as San Mateo, Cainta and Antipolo were developed on agricultural, forest-like lands and near bodies of water, thus, residents became definite victims of flooding,” he added.
“With our small but significant efforts, we launched Oplan Sagip Kanayunan to aid relief to typhoon hit rural communities. This is our effort under broader relief effort Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (Balsa) of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). We have served areas such Bgy. San Rafael in Montalban, fisherfolk barangays in Binangonan, Rizal and Bgy. Tungkong Mangga in San Jose Del Monte. It is also noticeable that the government has no massive relief efforts which is supposed to be as they have the needed resources, ” Ramos shared.
“On our coming relief caravan this October 18 to 19, we are planning to serve about 1,400 farmers from Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Hacienda Luisita,” he added.
Struggle for Land
KMP and its regional chapters such as the AMGL in Central Luzon and KASAMA-TK in Southern Tagalog has been waging a determined campaign for genuine land reform. They are in constant dialogue with officials of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform to criticize massive petitions for exemption and maneuverings of landlords, cancellations of EPs and CLOAs brought about by the passage of RA 9700 or CARPer.
“This October, we are ceaselessly calling the attention of Sen. Noynoy Aquino to scrap the Oct. 30 deadline for the agricultural workers in Hacienda Luisita. The letter from Hacienda Luisita, Inc. dated December 18, 2008, warned the agri-workers that they have until Oct. 30 to cultivate the lands. This very letter is in contradiction with the principle of social justice that presidents or presidentiables should banner primarily,” said Ramos.
United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) spokesperson Lito Bais said that, “we went on strike on November of 2004 because of the inhumane conditions in the hacienda, the military and police have fired on us and killed our martyred comrades, thus, we are cultivating the lands to honor the sacrifice made by our comrades and we will fight for the Hacienda Luisita lands to the very end. We are cultivating about 2,000 hectares benefiting about a thousand families.”
The case of Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas is still at standoff, though DAR has approved conversion applications to the productive lands filed by Fil-Estate and Manila Southcoast Development Corp. (MSDC, owned by SM tycoon Henry Sy), farmers of KASAMA-TK are continuing their struggle for land and cultivation of their crops.
“Hacienda Looc, Roxas, Yulo, Lopez and Ayala lands are being spared from land distribution and countless EPs and CLOAs are being cancelled by DAR. This shows the anti-peasant character of the CARPer where it has never served the interests of farmers, concretely in Southern Tagalog. Massive land use conversions were approved in Laguna, Cavite and Batangas, where it significantly reduced the supply of rice in Metro Manila,” said Imelda Lacandazo, KASAMA-TK spokesperson and KMP National Vice-Chair.
After the passage of CARPer, peasant groups have noticed the speedy trend of landgrabbing especially by politicians in sensitive offices.
“The productive 375-hectare agricultural lands in Sitio Malapad na Parang, Bgy. Sibul in San Miguel town, Bulacan are suddenly being grabbed by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte. He just came from nowhere and claimed he owns the lands. He is also using as front the Green Earth Heritage Foundation of his US-based daughter Dr. Marilyn Villafuerte-Matti. The peasants were EP and CLOA holders but Rep. Villafuerte is scheming with DAR Region 3 office for them to be cancelled,” said Ramos.
In Leyte, 429 hectares located at the tri-boundary of Tacloban City, Alangalang and San Miguel towns are being grabbed by Court of Appeals Associate Justice Vicente “Cheng” Veloso. KMP and SAGUPA-SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) together with Anakpawis Rep. and KMP Chair Rafael Mariano and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino held a fact-finding mission at the area last October 8 to 9. They have witnessed the actual occupation of farmers installed by Justice Veloso, displacing legitimate farmers whose ancestors developed the lands for decades. The progressive lawmakers also held a dialogue with DAR Region 8 officials and found out that they themselves have no knowledge of any proof of legitimate ownership of Justice Veloso to the lands.
Call for justice
Since 2001, 559 peasants have been victims of extra-judicial killings, where 118 were KMP leaders. The latest was Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental). Among the victims of EJK were Eddie Gumanoy of KASAMA-TK, Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao Region, Celso Pojas of FADC (KMP Davao City), Marcelino Beltran of AMT (KMP Tarlac), while still missing Nilo Arado of PAMANGGAS (KMP Panay) and Jonas Burgos of AMB (KMP Bulacan). About 129 were victims of enforced disappearances who are usually activist and leaders at the local areas. The peasant group totally condemns the fascist program of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Oplan Bantay Laya 2, composed of EJK, enforced disappearances and “arrest and detention.”
“We are also calling for the long overdue justice for the victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre and Mendiola massacre,” Ramos added.
Appeal for support
“We are sincerely appealing for support from various sectors such as the church, professionals, media and concerned groups for our upcoming endeavor. We are hoping that Filipino would be awakened by the recent incidents that our country has faced. The deaths caused by the back-to-back typhoons should not be in vain and those responsible should be investigated. Our country is a tropical country and a common venue for typhoons, thus, we should set-up an effective system in addressing natural calamities, also calamity funds should be protected and those who plunder should be punished,” called Ramos.
“The time is legitimate for the broad Filipino peasantry to unite to help one another and struggle for the lands they long have worked on,” Ramos added.