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Inquirer asked to take up Luisita, land reform in 2nd edition of presidential debate

By Billy Javier Reyes and Kremlin Montenegro

Manila, Philippines-Six of the biggest rural based groups in the country– the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation, the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list on Tuesday proposed to editors and organizers of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s presidential debate to take up the issue of Hacienda Luisita and the state of land reform in the second staging of the presidential forum.

In a press statement Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap appealed to Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot and editor-in-chief Leticia Jimenez-Magsanoc to have land reform issues discussed in the 2nd edition of the Inquirer presidential debate.

“We submit this humble appeal to the collective leadership and political wisdom of those behind the Inquirer presidential debate. Majority of the presidential wannabes are landlords and feudal chiefs of vast landholdings all over the country, so there’s already conflict of interest as far as land reform is concerned. We hope this proposal would merit the approval of the organizers,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader noted that the first edition of the presidential debate held yesterday at UP Diliman and attended by 2,500 people was a success, although there are more important questions that should have been asked to determine if public interest is really in heart and political mind of every candidate, rather than use the occasion as opportunity for political mudslinging against and between presidential wannabes.

Pamalakaya’s Hicap suggested a working title for the Inquirer regarding their proposal. “How about “how do you solve a problem like Hacienda Luisita as title of the next presidential debate?”

The Pamalakaya leader recalled that on June 8, 1989, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, then Senate Minority Leader of the Corazon Aquino controlled Senate delivered a privilege speech questioning the late President Aquino’s insertion of Stock Distribution Option (SDO) in her outline for the land reform law.

Sen. Enrile said former President Corazon Aquino signed Executive Order No. 229 enabling the Aquino presidency to preside over the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), the body that placed and approved to place the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita under the SDO scheme.

“Senate President Enrile could be invited as resource speaker for the presidential debate on Hacienda Luisita,” Hicap suggested.

Pamalakaya said the debate should also include discussion on the plans of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)to distribute some 200,000 hectares of land to qualified farmer beneficiaries this year under the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPer) with the return of the compulsory acquisition scheme in the five year extended land reform law.

“Secretary Pangandaman is the point person of landgrabbers and the land speculators in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agrarian reform department. His statement suggests false hopes and political blackmail rolled into. He wants to convince landless farmers that everything is ok under CARPer which is not true,” the group said.

In its website (www.dar.gov.ph) the agrarian reform agency expressed optimism that the department will attain 200,000 hectare land distribution target for 2010 due largely to the restoration of compulsory acquisition as one of the modes of acquiring lands under Republic Act 9700 or the CARPer law. He said the increase in the budget of DAR will hasten the distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“First the target is too low compared to the more than 6 million hectares of prime agricultural lands concentrated in the hands of landed monopolies like big landlords, private corporations and multinational plantations and military landlords in AFP military reservations,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said based on the data provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country has 14.1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands, of said total 9.9 million hectares are farmlands and about 4 million hectares more or less are devoted to livestock production which were exempted from land distribution since 1988.

“There are about 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands or more are concentrated in the hands of the few, and we DAR has no proof that five million hectares or more of these lands were already distributed to farmer beneficiaries under the reactionary CARP regime,” the group said.

Pamalakaya noted that in the September 2007 report of DAR, that following data were uncovered: 5,049 emancipation patents (EPs) and 103, 092 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were cancelled by the agrarian department covering 204,579 hectares of land. But think tank Ibon Foundation said at the middle of 2004, DAR cancelled 2,000 land titles of farmers involving 380,000 hectares of land. #

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Sugar groups told: Recall EO on importation

By Jay Cuesta, Roy Morilla and Sugar Hicap

Lawyers Atty.Jobert Pahilga and Jules Matibag of National Union of Peoples' Lawyers discussing the bitter pills the Cojuangco-Aquino clan has in mind for striking farmworkers

Manila, Philippines- Asserting that there is no legitimate basis to import sugar from foreign sources abroad, five of the biggest rural based groups—the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan peasant women federation, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Negros and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to recall Executive Order No. 857 authorizing the National Food Authority (NFA) to import sugar together with the private sector.

In a joint press statement, the groups pressed Malacanang to stop NFA from importing 150,000 metric tons of sugar tax free, saying that such move will pave way for the massive dumping of foreign sugar products at the expense of local sugar producers all over the country. They said, the situation does not merit the importation of sugar from sources abroad.

“There is no dramatic indicator for the retail price of sugar to increase as mill gate prices are relatively lower at P1,700 to P1,900 per 50-kg, very far from government lies that it is P2,000 upward,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos.

Citing the report of Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, composed of sugar millers and big planters, Ramos said raw production rose by 14.7%, refined production by 41.74%, even the milling rate of sugarcane to sugar increased by 4.19%, in short, where is the shortage the government is drumming about?” said Ramos.

Price manipulation

Likewise, leaders of UMA and NFSW accused officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) of engaging in price manipulation of sugar prices in the domestic market to justify sugar price hikes, enrich the pockets of big sugar traders, make commissions and justify the importation of sugar from foreign sources abroad.

They said agriculture and sugar officials for misleading the public on the actual price of sugar in the domestic market which they said had allowed big traders and sugar cartels to jack up prices of their products and promoted panic buying among consumers to further justify the skyrocketing prices of sugar.

UMA acting chair Butch Lazonde said the SRA and the Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap had some explaining to do as to why sugar price is going up to an unprecedented levels of P 52 per kilo despite of the government assurance of sufficient supply of sugar for the crop year 2009 and 2010 respectively.

“The general public has the right to know the real score behind the sudden hike in the prices of sugar since the situation does not merit for any sharp increase. Last December sugar price tops only for P42.00 per kilo but this January alone it had reached to P52.00 fearing the price will vault as high as P60.00. Such drastic hike on its price is very unlikely considering that we have enough supply for local consumption,” the UMA official asserted.

“This is a clear case of price manipulation. It shows unscrupulous big sugar traders and millers are behind this sudden sugar price hike. They are the ones who are benefitting from it. This is sheer profiteering. SRA and DA officials connived with big millers and traders to push this major disarray in the local market to benefit a few paved way for this sugar fiasco. Lazonde added

NFSW asserted the upsurge on the price if sugar as “fake” and had no really basis for the increase.

Ronald Dagu-ob NFSW national council member explained that “The province of Negros supplies 60% of sugar requirements and if we combine the supplies from other sugar producing provinces like Leyte, Pampanga, Tarlac and Mindanao this crop year, we think we’re going to have more than enough supplies to last all year round. So why the Department of Agriculture is eager to push for the importation of 150,000 MT of sugar?”

Lazonde said that “Both agencies are treating the situation just like another day in the office. Acting in a casual business like attitude without considering its effect to the general public”.

“As far as we are concern, sugar price should be not higher than the suggested retail price of P43.00 as the Department of Trade and Industry conveyed. If we follow the price of sugar last quarter of 2009 there have been increase of demands because of the holiday season for just only P2 to P3 top. But this January the price of sugar spiked four times, an increase of P14 to P20. This preposterous price frog leap, SRA and the Department of Agriculture can’t concretely explain to the worried stricken public”. Lazonde added.

“What the SRA, DA and the government do is to support our local sugar industry by subsidizing small sugar planters and at the same time help farm workers to increase their wages and benefits. Importation of sugar will only weakened our local sugar industry. To ensure a sufficient supply, we are urging the agencies concern to impose a moratorium not only on sugar but also with all agricultural products that is considered as basic commodities”. Lazonde said.

Special session

Meanwhile, the Pamalakaya asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to call special session on the issue of sugar following reports that the government will resort to sugar imports to the detriment of the local sugar industry and the sugar consuming public.

“Let this massacre of sugar industry by anarchic importation of sugar be discussed in a special session by Congress. We understand it is already the start of the campaign season, but this should not prevent lawmakers from taking this highly explosive commodity and issue and address the concerns of sectors affected by the looming sugar catastrophe characterized by massive importation and all-out price manipulation of sugar,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap. #

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Farmers accused pawnshop magnate of intrusion

By Glemmar Bacusmo, KMP media officer in Cebu

Cebu City, Philippines– A cooperative of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Carmen, Cebu today lambasted businessman Michel Lhullier after the road project of the latter encroached their farms destroying crops and plowed plots.

Without their consent, Lhullier’s men stealthily uprooted more than 200 corn stalks and scores of other crops and cut down a 30-year old coconut tree last Thursday, according to Cantipay Farmers’ Association (CAFA) chairperson Erlinda Into.

Into added that the newly constructed road, 5 meters wide, ate up the sizeable chunk of their 2 hectares communal and individual farms, which is part of the 20 hectares landholding placed under government’s agrarian reform program.

“Indeed, not all that glitters is gold. Amidst the façade of charity and community service is the cruel reality of business that put profit first over people and the environment,” Into said

When confronted by the members of CAFA, security personnel and employees of Lhullier’s poultry and flower farm nearby alleged that their boss already bought the land. The farmers bluntly dismissed their claim as ridiculous saying the land could not be sold being part of an agrarian reform area.

To prevent further construction activities, the farmers barricaded the land and replanted it with banana and other crops.

“We have this message to Mr. Lhullier: if you think you can have your way, then you are gravely mistaken. We will militantly defend the land we inherited from our forefathers,” Into ended. ###

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Farmer marchers say DAR is joking on 200K hectare target for land distribution in 2010

by Kaka Esteban and Trinity Biglang Awa

Manila, Philippines- “It is a joke and a bad one.”

Peasant leaders of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para Sa Lupa at Katarungan on Thursday slammed the announcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that agrarian reform agency is ready to distribute some 200,000 hectares of land to qualified farmer beneficiaries this year under the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPer) with the return of the compulsory acquisition scheme in the five year extended land reform law.

In a press statement, Lakbayan organizers Anakpawis party list, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) said Agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman is joking and treating landless farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries into an outrageous roller coaster ride when he announced DAR target for distribution in 2010.

“Secretary Pangandaman is the point person of landgrabbers and the land speculators in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agrarian reform department. His statement suggests false hopes and political blackmail rolled into. He wants to convince landless farmers that everything is ok under CARPer which is not true,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente in a joint statement.

In its website (www.dar.gov.ph) the agrarian reform agency expressed optimism that the department will attain 200,000 hectare land distribution target for 2010 due largely to the restoration of compulsory acquisition as one of the modes of acquiring lands under Republic Act 9700 or the CARPer law. He said the increase in the budget of DAR will hasten the distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“First the target is too low compared to the more than 6 million hectares of prime agricultural lands concentrated in the hands of landed monopolies like big landlords, private corporations and multinational plantations and military landlords in AFP military reservations,” the Lakbayan leaders stressed.

KMP’s Ramos said DAR never mentioned that while the compulsory acquisition (CA) as a mode was restored in CARPer law, it evaded citing the other mode of land acquisition, which is voluntary offer to sell (VOS), which big landlords can range against compulsory acquisition to maintain their control over vast tracts of lands. The farmer leader said the VOS will also be used by landed monopolies to sell their lands at a price acceptable to them.

“Mr. Pangandaman is engaged in massive disinformation. He is not telling the truth about CARPer and the bankruptcy and anti-farmer character of this law,” added Ramos.

Anakpawis’ Clemente urged the House of Representatives to undertake a complete inventory and performance assessment of DAR since CARP was implemented in 1987, asserting that DAR’s accomplish reports were not verified and highly questionable.

The party list official said based on the data provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country has 14.1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands, of said total 9.9 million hectares are farmlands and about 4 million hectares more or less are devoted to livestock production which were exempted from land distribution since 1988.

“There are about 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands or more are concentrated in the hands of the few, and we DAR has no proof that five million hectares or more of these lands were already distributed to farmer beneficiaries under the reactionary CARP regime” said Clemente.

KMP noted that in the September 2007 report of DAR, that following data were uncovered: 5,049 emancipation patents (EPs) and 103, 092 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were cancelled by the agrarian department covering 204,579 hectares of land. But think tank Ibon Foundation said at the middle of 2004, DAR cancelled 2,000 land titles of farmers involving 380,000 hectares of land.

Meanwhile, the 87-year old Damasa “Naynay Masang” de Castro, survivor of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre, now on wheel chair, will lead 2,000 marchers from Mindanao, Panay, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Ilocos provinces, La Union, Cordillera, Isabela, Cagayan and Central Luzon provinces will converge at DAR ‘s national office early this evening for the People’s Concert and Vigil for Land and Justice.

The Mendiola Massacre survivor and veteran of numerous fights on agrarian reform led the community of farmers in Barangay Langkaan 1 and Pala-pala in Dasmarinas, Cavite against the Japanese giant Marubeni in the mid 80s and early 90s –whom the old woman and her farmer colleagues accused of landgrabbing and violations of peasant land rights.

Tomorrow, the 10,000 marching farmers , fisherfolk, farmworkers and peasant women will be joined by 8,000 Manila based activists belonging to Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Gabriela, Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kabataan Party, League of Filipino Students (LFS) and eight militant party list congressmen—Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo, Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares and Teddy Casino, Anakpawis party list Reps. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod, Kabataan Party Rep. Raymond Palatino and Gabriela lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan. With reports from Bb. Joyce Cabral and Sugar Hicap

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10-km march highlights 23rd year anniv of Mendiola Massacre

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla, Rey Manangan and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines- 10,000 farmers and Manila based activists will walk 10 kilometer from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to demand free distribution of land and justice to victims of state repression. They will literally and figuratively paint the town red with their slogans for free land distribution and justice. And they will burn 1,500 pictures of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo once they reach the bridge of Mendiola.

“This is another shining moment, a triumphant class action from the Filipino peasantry. We will grab this political opportunity to strike our demand for free distribution of land and the rendering of justice to all victims of states-sponsored terrorism under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” said the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list –organizers of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan in a joint statement.

The long march will coincide with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre which claimed the lives of 13 farmers when military and police agents peppered protesting farmers with bullets in an intense and politically charged rally 23 years ago.

To highlight the long march, leaders of the Katipunan ng Mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) will set on fire an effigy billed as “Backhoe Gloria”, which they said symbolizes Arroyo’s crimes to the Filipino farmers like landlessness and political repression. The burning of the effigy will be held in Mendiola once they reach the historic bridge, organizers said.

The 7 ft. tall effigy made of spare woods and other scrap materials was crafted by the Laguna based Southern Tagalog Cultural Network, according to Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo. “The purpose of this effigy is to remind the people of Gloria’s monstrous reign,” she said.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos said the burning of 1,500 pictures of President Arroyo in Mendiola will symbolize the outrage of Filipino farmers against her government responsible for the gross denial of farmers’ rights to land, the brutal killings of 561 farmers and the fabricated criminal charges filed against peasant activists.
“With the burning of 1,500 pictures of Mrs. Arroyo, we figuratively speak the language of letting Mrs. Arroyo perish in the fires of hell for her agrarian crimes and injustice to millions of Filipino farmers. The prop action in Mendiola will also serve as a challenge and warning to the next sitting presidency in Malacanang,” added Ramos.

Ramos said marching farmers supported by 8,000 members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and other manila based activist groups will also present the” Peasant Manila Declaration for May 2010 elections”—a political-electoral document composed of set of demands challenging all presidential candidates on issues and demands of farmers like free land distribution.

However, the KMP official said the set of demands will no longer be presented to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, because the Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer, in all occasions, refuses to give up his family’s immoral and illegal control over the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita.

The Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) also turned the occasion into a political bashing against Senator Aquino. ULWU acting president Lito Bais said Sen. Aquino and the Cojuangco-Aquino clan will not give up the sugar plantation to farmer beneficiaries because the senator believes Hacienda Luisita was God’s gift to the Cojuangcos, and that farm workers working for several decades in the 6,453 hectare sugar estate are children of a lesser God for a lifetime.

“Senator Aquino is anti-farmer, a certified class enemy of farmers,” Bais said. According to Bais, around 100 farm workers of Hacienda Luisita joined the North leg of the 10-day Lakbayan. He said farmers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija merged with Luisita farm workers on their way to Manila for the big rally. #

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Satur, Maza to lead farmers’ March in Mendiola

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

Backhoe Gloria symbolizes the crimes of the Arroyo regime

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Lakbayan marchers hurdle PNP checkpoints

By Roy Morilla in Sorsogon City
and Trinity Biglang Awa in Manila

Organizers of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para Sa Lupa at Katarungan on Saturday said the 170 marching farmers from Mindanao, Panay and Negros islands, Eastern Visayas and Central Visayas have been subjected to series of police checkpoints just to pass towns and municipalities on their way to the National Capital Region.


In text messages sent to Manila, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos said since day one of the Lakbayan, which officially kicked off in Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City, the peasant caravan and march frequently encountered checkpoints, and their vehicles were searched and checked by firearms carrying policemen and government troops as if the farmers are carrying high power rifles and explosives with them.

“The checkpoints are practically everywhere, as if this government is gearing for another all-out war and not for the May 2010 elections,” the KMP leader added. According to Ramos, the Lakbayan caravan and march hurdled checkpoints from Davao City to Butuan City and Surigao City, and from Surigao City to Liloan and Tacloban City in Leyte, and in Calbayog, Catbalogan and Catarman in Samar island before they reached the port in Allen, Northern Samar.

Last night, the PNP Sorsogon stopped the caravan from reaching the city. A negotiation was held between the police authorities and leaders of Lakbayan headed by Anakpawis party list Rep. Joel Maglunsod. After 20 minutes of negotiation, the Lakbayan was finally allowed to proceed in Sorsogon City past 8:00 last night.

This morning, the Lakbayan was stopped by policemen manning the PNP checkpoint in Castilla, Sorsogon, but through the intercession of Rep. Maglunsod and the insistence of caravan and march organizers, the marching peasants were allowed to proceed to Daraga and Legaspi City. The incident happened between 9:00 am and 10:00 am.

However, in Barangay Bascaran, Daraga, Albay, 11 caravan vehicles were stopped by military and police checkpoint. As of press time, negotiations are ongoing between the police officials and Lakbayan organizers.

Anakpawis Rep. Maglunsod said the 10-day Lakbayan was announced a week ahead of the schedule and the police and the military were all informed about the legal and legitimate activity of the farmers. “This long running nightmare of checkpoints, harassment and not so intelligence gathering adventures of the PNP and the AFP have been the usual staples of the Arroyo government to frustrate the people’s assertion of their rights,” the militant lawmaker observed.

Rep. Maglunsod said the organizers are expecting more of the same when they reach Tagkawayan, Quezon by 10:00 am tomorrow.

In a related development, the KMP, the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list said the Comelec decision exempting Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) from gun and perform checkpoint functions is extremely dangerous.

“The Comelec decision exempting CAFGUs from the total gun ban is a major political, legal and moral blunder. The poll body merely puts a legal blanket to the killing spree and human rights violation activities of these paramilitary units, which they perform in accordance with the cruel intention and sinister agenda of the sitting presidency in Malacanang, the pro-Arroyo military clique and their warlord allies,” the groups said in their statement.

They said the Comelec should disband these paramilitary groups due to their long-running violations of human rights at any given period. “The best way to address the issue is to call for the immediate and unconditional disbandment of CAFGUs, period, period, period,” the groups said.

“Please allow us to reiterate the record straight–57 people were massacred by CAFGU forces in Maguindanao last year. Is that a joke or a remote incident to Comelec? Where is their sense of human rights, justice and political sensibility?” Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente added.

Comelec commissioner Lucenito Tagle yesterday said the CAAs are allowed to carry firearms because they are considered units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are exempted from the nationwide gun ban imposed by the poll body during election period.

Organizers of Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan said aside from land and justice and concrete issues and struggles on agrarian reform, the grueling 10-day long caravan and long march from different parts of Mindanao, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Panay, Negros, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley regions to the National Capital Region will also call for the dismantling of CAFGU units across the country.

Under Comelec resolution 8742 made effective last January 11, amending Resolution 8714, the CAFGU was exempted from gun ban along with members of the Presidential Security Group, Bureau of Fire Protection, Optical Media Board, the treasurers and deputy treasurers and members of the Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Treasury.

Prior to Comelec promulgation of Resolution 8714, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao opposed the disarming of CAAs because these paramilitary groups are tapped by fishing companies to secure their venture in the South. For his part, Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of Western Command said as far as the military is concerned, the CAFGUs are part of the military organization and not all CAFGUs are utilized by private companies operating in far flung areas.

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