SORA pits vs. Aquino’s SONA

By Bianca Jing Bajing Jing and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Farmer groups led by the peasant activist group 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) delivered their own State of the Nation Address (SONA) dubbed as State of the Rural Address (SORA) on the eve of the 1st SONA of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino.

About 2,000 farmers, peasant women, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and indigenous people listened to SORA led by KMP national spokesperson Antonio Flores.

In his 10-minute SORA speech, Flores told Aquino that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)and its five-year extended version the CARP with reforms remained a comprehensive failure and perpetual agrarian disaster to millions of landless farmers all over the country.

“If Noynoy wants to perform in accordance with national interest he would announce the immediate and free distribution of hacienda lands like the 6,435-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 7,100 Hacienda Yulo in Barangay Canlubang, Calamba City and the 8,650 hectare Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas to mention a few. If he do this, then we will have progressive future for seven out of 10 Filipino farmers who don’t have lands,” the KMP spokesman said in his SORA.

The SORA delivered by Flores also asked Aquino to immediately prosecute former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for high crimes and corruption, scrap the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, dismantle death squads which are still maintained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and pull out deployed government troops in areas of agrarian disputes.

Flores likewise informed President Aquino on the demand of relatives of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to prosecute Arroyo’s military and security officials involved in political killings and abductions. Some of those he mentioned during the SORA were former defense secretary Norberto Gonzalez and former Army general Jovito Palparan.

“SORA is the real state of the rural people as far as our groups are concerned and our SORA is authentic, based on day-to-day experience and struggle for daily survival,” the KMP leader said.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap rejected the plea of President Aquino 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 us, 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,” Hicap said.

“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,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Hicap 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 Pamalakaya leader added.

Kasama-TK secretary general Axel 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 Kasama-TK

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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