Farmer activists prefer protest over street party

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla and Gegemon Babon

MANILA, Philippines – ” An earth shaking no.”

Farmer and other rural based groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Amihan peasant women federation, the Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) rejected the plea of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to hold their rally inside the Quezon City Memorial Circle in Eliptical Road, instead of pushing their way near the Batasan in time for Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“Excuse me, but we are going to the main capital not to stage a street party and hail the Aquino administration to high heaven. We are going to Manila to present the real state of the people which is free from any shade of illusion,” the six rural based organizations said in a joint statement.

“Mr. Aquino is barely a month on office, but this 50-year old bachelor politician is leading us to another authoritarian or police state by confining us to a 10-hectare park where no one could see or hear us but a handful of park goers,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos in a press statement.

Ramos said Aquino should allow protesters to get near the Batasan complex and express the people’s agenda and true state of the nation address rather than bar them from getting near Congress and put them inside the Quezon City park like prisoners seeking fresh air and the warm of the sun.

“Our farmers, fisherfolk and the other rural people will come from as far as Quezon province. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment from Mr.Aquino, they are coming to push free land distribution and justice and tell the Aquino clique that these things are non-negotiable. Definitely they are here on SONA day to make a difference and not to join any Palace led street party,” the KMP leader added.

On Sunday, about 1,700 farmers and activists from Southern Tagalog led by Kasama-TK and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will lead a caravan for land, truth and justice starting from Lucena City in Quezon Province and will pass several towns of Laguna and Batangas provinces before reaching the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City in the evening to join farmers camping out in DAR. The striking farmers are from Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang inCalamba City who are on 100-day peasant strike which began on June 30.

On Sunday night, the farmers will deliver the State of the Peasant Address (SOPA) which will call for the urgent and unconditional free distribution of lands to farmer beneficiaries that include the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 7,100 hectare coconut lands in Hacienda Yulo and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The SOPA will also call for the pull-out of Army troops in several haciendas that include Luisita, Yulo and Looc. “President Aquino is not listening to the legitimate cry and agrarian demands of Hacienda Yulo farmers and this is the real score at the moment. Until now, there is no presidential instruction from the Office of the President for DAR to act swiftly on the demands submitted to Aquino’s office early this month. How long it would take him before he makes a decisive move in favor the Yulo farmers? One year? 50 years?”, said Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin.

Pinpin said the official response of President Aquino so far was the violent demolition of peasant camp-out in Mendiola Bridge and the dispersal of striking farmers on July 3 that led to the mass arrest of 42 farmer activists and the injury of 13 other Southern Tagalog activists.

“ So far this is the concrete step taken by Aquino as far as the agrarian issues surrounding Hacienda Yulo is concerned and for the farmers the act is simply incorrigible and extremely reprehensible,” the Kasama-TK official said.

At least seven cases of agrarian disputes mostly from Southern Tagalog region were presented on July 16 to newly installed Agrarian reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes.

Among the land dispute cases involving land use conversions, cancellations of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and eviction of farmer beneficiaries include the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas which has been primed for eco-tourism projects and the 7,100 hectare prime agricultural land in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City in Laguna province.

The other cases of agrarian disputes presented during the dialogue with DAR secretary include land reform reversals and land use conversions in Dasmarinas and Silang in Cavite province, the seedling projects in Montalban, Rizal and the conversion of Araneta owned lands in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

“The Southern Tagalog region has become the laboratory for land reform reversals, land reform denials and land use conversions since the Calabarzon days of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Hundreds of thousands of prime agricultural lands have been subjected to automatic control of big landlords and were primed for land use conversions at the expense of land reform beneficiaries and other land tillers across the region,” said KMP.

Citing a report filed by Ibon Foundation, KMP said as of December 2006, DAR has cancelled at least 108,141 CLOAs and Emancipation Patents (EPs) involving 204,579 hectares. CLOA and EP cancellations are increased by 3,790% from 1995 data of 2,780, while land area increased by 1,162% from 16, 213 hectares. Of the cancellations, majority or 87% were due to subdivision of mother-CLOAs into individual CLOAs. It involved about 82% of the lands to 167,486 hectares.#

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