Peasant youth group National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) – Youth commemorated the anniversary of the ill-fated Hacienda Luisita massacre that took place November 16, 2004, in the Tarlac-based sugar plantation of that name.
The group opened their online invitation to protest at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) this 10 AM, with the lines “Labing-anim na taong inhustisya, Deka-dekadang pakikibaka.”
The group’s Diliman branch recalled that 16 years ago, the incident saw 14 dead, 133 detained, and 37 missing after farmers peacefully asserted their right to land, until they were hailed with bullets and teargas, and were water cannoned.
The Diliman-based group continued that it has been decades since the Cojuangco family, the declared land-grabbers in the area, have benefited while thousands of farmers and agricultural workers have suffered.
“Deka-dekada nang pinagkakait ang lupa sa mga magsasaka. Patuloy silang pinagsasamantalahan ng mga naghaharing-uri, patuloy silang nasasadlak sa matinding unos at kahirapan,” NNARA-Youth UP Diliman explained, calling for land reforms.
They noted, however, that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has paved the way for policies such as the Terror Law, as well as Memorandum Order (MO) 32 (which authorizes more state agents within the areas of Bicol,Negros, and Samar) and Executive Order (EO) 70 (which permits a “whole of nation approach” in allegedly curbing communist conflict) bring further suffering upon the farmers.
“Ang pinagsamang Terror Law, MO 32, at EO 70 ay ang instrumento ng pamamasismo ni Duterte upang busalan ang mga lehitimong panawagan ng mamamayan at patahimikin ang mga lumalaban,” they said.
The group then concluded that the massacre was proof that the state utilizes “armed mercenary attack” in order to protect their economical and political power.
“Sa loob ng maraming dekada, ang mga pangakong reporma at pagbabago ng mga papet at pasistang rehimen ay napatunayang hungkag at nagsisilbi lamang sa makauring interes ng mga lokal at dayuhang naghaharing-uri,” they said, urging collective action to bring justice for the victims.
True to their word, however, the long list of attacks on farmers have grown, even 16 years after the fact and beyond having to struggle against developments such as the Rice Tariffication Law and the looming threat of Golden Rice production.
Nine lives, two years, zero justice
The most recent massacre on farmers can be traced to 2018.
Last October 20 marked two years since nine farmers, all members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) were killed while resting in a tent in Hacienda Nene, Purol Pine Tree, Brgt. Bulanon, Sagay City in Negros Occidental. They were the Sagay 9, and two minors and four women reportedly were among those who were hailed with bullets.
“Dalawang taon na ang nakalipas mula ng paslangin ang siyam na magsasaka ng Hacienda Nene. Dalawang taon na rin ang nakalilipas ngunit wala pa ring nagbabayad sa mga inutang na dugo ng mga magsasakang tanging kagustuhan lamang ay magkaroon ng sariling lupang sakahan,” NNARA-Youth UPLB said in their commemoration statement, adding that already 277 peasants have died under the Duterte administration at the time of writing.
The list goes on and on
Recently, human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog (ST) reported that yesterday, November 14, Copra farmer and peasant leader Armando Buwisan was murdered in Brgy. Santa Maria, Catanauan, Quezon by unknown individuals. Buwisan was remembered as The president of the Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) – Catanauan’s local chapter, a Quezon-based organization that consists of copra farmers fighting for farmer rights.
“Kahit katatapos pa lamang ng sunud-sunod na bagyong humagupit sa lalawigan, batbat pa rin ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao at nangingibabaw pa rin ang desperadong hakbang ng mga berdugong ahente ng gubyerno — unahin ang kanilang madugong kontra-insurhensiyang operasyon, kung saan mga sibilyan ang mga naaapektuhan, kaysa tumulong sa mga nasalanta ng mga bagyong nagdaan,” Karapatan ST said in their alert statement. They also advised the public to await further details.
Buwisan’s death was only the latest in a series of farmer slayings that have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last September 28, 50-year-old farmer Bernardo Guillen, who was allegedly believed to have been kidnapped by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), was found beheaded in Sitio Amian, Negros Occidental. He was also remembered as the father of activist Bernard Guillen, who was detained last 2016 along with five others.
Last November 5, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) provincial chapter affiliate and farmer Rico Jacaba was shot dead by an unknown gunman. His body was found in Sitio Arom, Brgy. Macagagay, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, at 5PM earlier today.
56 farmers for one land deal
Last October 25, 56 members of Paghiliusa sang Agricultural Workers kag Small Fishermen nga may Inisyatiba sa Barangay San Juan (PAWIS), a progressive organization of farmers, faced trumped-up charges after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed an alleged case against them in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) explained that they were charged with violating Section 73 of Republic Act (RA) 9700 or Comprehensive Agrarian reform Program (CARP) Extension with Reforms, with the warrant of arrest being released by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56.
According to MASIPAG-Visayas, while five were already detained, four have already died.
These events unfolded after Enrique Yusay III, representative of the E & M Agricultural Corporation and the rumoured-owner of a 248-hectare land (which bore the land title of TCT T-280963), filed the charges. MASIPAG also reported that the land might be included in about a thousand hectares of land in southern Negros Occidental, allegedly belonging to the Yusay family.
While PAWIS reportedly petitioned to have the lands of the E & M Corporation under the CARP’s scope in 2006, and while dialogues were initiated with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), farmers decided to till two hectares of land in protest, after eight years of no developments.
MASIPAG-Visayas media liaison and advocacy officer Kervin Bonganciso said that this was a means for land grabbers to serve their agendas.
“The local landlords utilize the law to harass and intimidate the farmers to protect their self-interest,” Bonganciso said, also called for the DAR and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to respectively release the company’s Certificate of Land Ownership Award, as well as to come to the farmers’ aid, and to not weaponize the law against the farmers’ favor. [P]
Photo by Renato Hidalgo Dilan