By Chocolate Moose Fernandez, Sugar Hicap and Billy Javier Reyes
Manila, Philippines- Touted as the first in Philippine history and the first political blockbuster of 2010, farmers from all over Mindanao, Panay and Negros islands, Central and Eastern Visayas, Bicol and the Southern Tagalog regions in the South, and peasants from North– Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions will march from their respective point of origins to the National Capital Region from January 12-22 to frustrate the last ditch efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to push Charter Change.
Organizers of the 10-day Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan led by the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list said thousands of farmer marchers from Mindanao, Panay, Negros, Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas, representing the South wing will merge with marchers from Bicol and Southern Tagalog provinces on their way to Manila, while marchers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon representing the North wing will converge in Hacienda Luisita park in Tarlac City on their way to the National Capital Region.
“Chacha under a corrupt, brutal and reactionary government is extremely dangerous. We don’t need Chacha in whatever form or mode. What we want is land and justice to victims of state repression. What we want is an end to all forms of landgrabbing and land reconcentration. What we want is for the Cojuangco-Aquino landlord clan in Tarlac to give up their illegal and immoral claim on Hacienda Luisita and let the farmworkers own the land and enjoy the fruits of their labor,” the KMP and Anakpawis party list said in a joint statement.
“The Chacha which Mrs. Arroyo has in mind is meant to perpetuate herself to power either as an hold over president or Prime Minister and allow the grand sell out of Philippine patrimony through 100 percent foreign ownership of land,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general.
Early this week, President Arroyo called her staunch allies in Congress to pass House Bill No. 6975 that seeks to implement the concurrent resolutions of the House and the Senate calling for a convention to amend the 1987 Charter. But KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said a sinister agenda and a cruel intention was behind the fresh moves of Malacanang and the President’s allies in pushing for Charter Change.
Ramos supported the statement issued by Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes that President Arroyo wants Con-con to effect charter change with the election of delegates by October this year, because by that time Mrs. Arroyo, who is running unopposed in the second district of Pampanga, would be the district’s congresswoman, which would enable her to run for prime minister once her allies and other pro-Chacha congressmen decides to change the form of government from presidential to parliament.
For her part, Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para Sa Lupa at Katarungan will coincide with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre and will expose agrarian related issues and problems nationwide involving big landlords like the Cojuangco-Aquino family in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco in Negros island and Hacienda Isabel and San Antonio in Isabela, the Calabarzon motivated -Ayala landgrabbing activities in Southern Tagalog to mention a few.
“Land monopoly in the country has further aggravated and intensified the exploitation of our farmers. Imagine, because of landlessness, they are perennially subjected to pay 50 percent, or 1/3 or 1/4 of their gross harvest as land rent. But only 19 to 21 percent of the total produce goes to farmers. This sorry state of agrarian reform in the country will be vividly depicted during the 10-day farmers’ march from all over the country,” Clemente added.
The Anakpawis official said the 10-day Lakbayan will also engage in mobile dissemination and propaganda campaign about the sorry condition of farm workers all over the country. She said daily income of rice farmers for the entire cropping season ranges from P 23 to P 40 per day.
Clemente said the family of Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III failed to address and improve the lives of Luisita workers over the last three to four decades. According to her, daily take home pay of every farm worker in Hacienda Luisita is P 9.50, which is not even enough to buy a half kilo of NFA rice.
On the other hand, KMP’s Ramos said in defense of their rights to land in pursuit of social justice, farmers are perpetually subjected to various forms of human rights violations, militarization and repression.
Latest data from Karapatan human rights group revealed that 561 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings, 119 of them were leaders and members of KMP, while scores of internally displaced peasants due to all-out war, militarization and massacre; and cases of abducted farmers and falsely charged rural activists continue to flood the monitoring bulletins of human rights groups and the concerned public. #