By Bombshell Moran
Manila, Philippines- Eight militant party list lawmakers will lead the 7,000 strong farmers’ march to Don Chino Roces Bridge on the occasion of the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.
In a press conference this morning, Makabayan senatorial candidates Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) and Rep. Liza Maza (Gabriela) and Anakpawis party list lawmakers Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod said four of their colleagues—Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino, Gabriela Women’s Party list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan and Kabataan Party list Rep. Raymond Palatino will also join the 10-kilometer march from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City to Mendiola Bridge in Manila on Friday.
“According to data provided by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) majority of private agricultural lands are still in the hands of big landlords. Around 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands remained untouched and undistributed, and based from that projection, agrarian injustice still reign all over the country,” Maza said.
Anakpawis’ Mariano said around 500 farmers representing peasant groups in Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Benguet, Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora are now marching from Malolos City to Meycauyan City. The Northern and Central Luzon contingent is being led by the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon and the Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU).
“The Northern and Central Luzon leg of Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan encountered minor hassles compared to the South leg which is marred by frequent military and police checkpoints since day one of the 10-day caravan which started in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City where marchers and their vehicles were subjected to rigorous check and inspection,” Rep. Mariano said.
Maglunsod said the Southern leg of the Lakbayan composed of Mindanao island, Panay and Negros islands, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog had hurdled series of checkpoints and stoppages in Davao City, Butuan City, Cagayan de Oro, Liloan and Tacloban City in Leyte, Catbalogan, Calbayog and Catarman in Samar, Sorsogon City in Sorsogon, Daraga and Legaspi City in Albay.
Last Sunday, Maglunsod recalled that in Gumaca, Quezon province, the caravan was stopped five times and derailed the arrival of farmers in Lucena City in Quezon. “The AFP and the PNP are exploiting the Comelec gun ban to harass the marchers and derail their caravan to Manila. I was in Bicol during the caravan’s leg in the region, and we have to negotiate from time to time to military and police authorities just to be allowed to pass from one town to the next town. This is ridiculous, “the Anakpawis solon said.
The militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno and staunch ally Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said they will mobilize at least 2,000 of their members in support of the farmers’ march to Mendiola, while Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela chapters all over the National Capital Region will also join what they called the historic march and caravan for land and justice.
Meanwhile, critics of the Arroyo government on Tuesday ate apples and oranges at the gate of the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City, while their colleagues who marched from Mindanao and Visayas islands, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions morphed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo into a monster backhoe in Calamba City in Laguna to mark the 8th day of the Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan.
Some 80 fisherfolk and farmer activists belonging to Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list once blocked the gates of agriculture department with 5 huge ice blocs and put 50 pieces of oranges and 50 pieces of apples on top of these ice blocs for cooling.
Later they ate the apples and oranges in a symbolic protest against the P 455-million ice making machine scam involving agriculture secretary Arthur Yap and 13 other government and private officials, who syndicated the bidding and procurement of 98 ice-making machines, which the groups said was overpriced by P 2.3 million per unit or P 225 million.
Officials of DA and the spokespersons of the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) said Pamalakaya and Anakpawis were wrong in comparing the 98 units brought by the winning bidder to the ice-making machines offered by other bidders, saying the groups who filed the plunder case against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Sec. Yap were comparing apples and oranges, asserting that the machines were double in price because these were state of the art technologies.
“See? Fisherfolk don’t compare oranges and apples. They eat them. However, it would be a chance of lifetime for our small fishers to have oranges and apples in their dining tables,” says Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France and Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente in a joint statement.
Last January 6, Pamalakaya and Anakpawis leaders led by Rep. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod filed the plunder and other criminal and administrative charges against President Arroyo, Sec. Yap and 13 other public and private officials
In Calamba City, the 1,500 marchers from Mindanao island, Panay Island, Negros Island, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions paraded an effigy known as “Gloriang Backhoe” where President Arroyo was morphed into a giant monster like backhoe depicting her administration as a regime massacring livelihood and human rights of the people all over the archipelago.
The 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide Backhoe effigy made of wood and other scrap materials was crafted by the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and its cultural arm—the Southern Tagalog Cultural Network showing Arroyo’s face as the backhoe machine being operated by Uncle Sam symbolizing the US control over her administration.
Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo said the effigy will be paraded as the 1,500 strong marchers from Mindanao, Panay and Negros islands, Central and Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions march from Calamba City to San Pedro in Laguna today.
“This effigy symbolizes the crimes of President Arroyo to the people. It represents the criminal activities of this government including landlessness, human rights violations, all forms of fraud and corruption and puppetry,” she said. With reports from Bb. Joyce Cabral and Chocolate Moose Fernandez