By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Mudra Amparo and Sugar Hicap
MANILA, Philippines- Manila police chief district GeneralRodolfo Magtibay had insisted that he ordered the violent demolition of protest camp-out structures set by striking farm workers of Hacienda Luisita and peasant activists in Southern Tagalog and the mass arrest of 41 farmers as Magtibay assured the public Malacanang had nothing to do with what leftwing groups first violent disperal under the Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III administration.
“To General Magtibay, we have this short message for your day-to-day consumption— tell that to the marines”, said Antonio Flores, leader of of the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), one of the organizers of the 100 days of peasant camp-out for land and justice. On Saturday, some 200 operatives of the Manila Police District (MPD) in cooperation with the city engineering office of the Manila City hall forcibly demolished the makeshift camp-out protest structure set by protesting farmers in Don Chino Roces bridge and arrested 38 farmer activists.
About a dozen of those arrested in Mendiola were women identified with the Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK). Another set of 44 farmers and their supporters who followed their arrested colleagues to the MPD headquarters in UN Avenue to assist and provide immediate paralegal services were also dispersed, three of them were also arrested, while not less than 15 farmers were injured and brought to the nearest hospital for treatment.
“Gen. Magtibay is engaged in a major cover up and political foul play. The order to disperse the farmers came from the Office of the President or anyone who is a close associate of President Aquino,” added Flores. ” Let me remind this police officer that three days before the dispersal, a Palace staff who received the sets of demands from Hacienda Luisita farmers, from Kasama-TK and KMP told us that Malacanang would get angry with Gen. Magtibay if he will continue to allow us to hold the 100 day camp out in Mendiola Bridge,” the KMP official said.
The KMP official said Magtibay was compelled to follow the “chain of command” and that is to follow any order from Aquino how illegal and immoral such order is. “Since Magtibay’s police career is at stake, the police general has no choice but to swallow Aquino’s order, play the usual brutal and mercenary role in the name of the brutal, pro-landord and fascist presidency of Mr. Aquino,” the peasant leader added.
The KMP said the 100-days peasant camp-out was also organized by KasamaTK, the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation and the left-leaning fisherfolk aliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).
According to KMP, the 100-days peasant camp out was meant to present to Aquino lists of peasant demands that include the immediate prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on charges of corruption particularly referring to the P 728 million fertilizer fund scam, the urgent and unconditional free distribution of the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita and the investigation of agrarian disputes in Southern Tagalog particularly the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas and the 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna.
“Mr. Aquino like his predecessor Mrs.Arroyo is an ultimate anti-peasant president. His display of extreme brutality as shown by the equally brutal dispersal of striking farmers reminds the public that he and his family will not give up Hacienda Luisita and other farm lands controlled by big landlords, corporate giants and warlords all over the country,” said Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin.
“We thought we are dealing with a new administration with full of hopes and promies, but just the same Aquino is just an Arroyo trapped in a man’s body. What he did to us is grossly unacceptable and higly condemnable,” the Kasama-TK added.
On Saturday, hours after the arrest, the 41 farmers arrested by MPD police were released upon the intercession of lawyers Atty. Jobert Pahilga and Atty. Jules Matibag of Sentra Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) respectively. The released farmers were brought to Caritas Manila in Pandacan, Manila where they were allowed to stay until Sunday night. Pinpin of Kasama-TK said the farmers in Southern Tagalog and the Hacienda Luisita farm workers will remain in the National Capital Region (NCR) up to the first 100 days of the Aquino administration.
The Kasama-TK official said farmers Southern Tagalog had also prepared a petition to the Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima urging the newly installed justice secretary to withdraw all trumped up charges filed against regional peasant and multisectoral leaders in the region particularly those cases filed in Rizal, Batangas and Quezon by the Armed Forces of the Phillippines during the Arroyo administration.