Peasant groups prevailed in the face of intimidation from police and military state forces to hold protest actions. It was a culmination of a month-long nationally-coordinated series of activities for Peasant Month in Mendiola, Manila and various government department offices, last October 20 and 21.
In a video footage, farmers asserted to hold the peasant month program even as police blocked the mobilization.
One farmer said to the police, “Isang oras lang na programa para ipanawagan ang lupa. Anong klaseng kayong tao, kami nagpapalamon sa inyo! [The program forwarding our calls for land only lasts for an hour. What kind of people are you? We are literally the ones who feed you!]”
Despite police and military intervention, the program continued along Recto Avenue led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
For land reform, aid and justice
The peasant groups forwarded the calls of its very theme: “Lupa, Ayuda, Hustisya,” especially amidst a culture of impunity.
KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos remarked that Presidential Decree (PD) 27, signed by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos on October 21, 1972, and the subsequent agrarian reform programs failed to break land monopoly and pushed farmers further into misery.
Peasant groups from Southern Tagalog (ST) and Central Luzon joined the nationwide assembly and narrated worsening conditions of peasant communities in their regions caused by unjust agriculture-related policies, intensified militarization, and crackdown on peasant leaders and rights advocates.
Chairperson Cecil “Ka Cecil” Rapiz of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB)-KMP cited the murder of farmers in their region by local police forces. With her was Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Pilipinas, who called to prioritize genuine agrarian reform, instead of the privatization of farming lands.
With regard to the difficulties brought about by the Rice Liberalization Law (RLL), Angelito Lumapas of Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Cathy Estavillo of Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women mentioned loss of livelihood and farmers from their region experiencing extreme hunger.
“Ang ating magsasaka ay lugmok na sa kahirapan, baon na sa kanilang mga utang, pero hanggang ngayon ay nananawagan pa rin tayo na walang natatanggap na ayuda o subsidiyo ang ating mga magsasaka [Our farmers are deep in debt but until now, they have received no aid or subsidy],” Lumapas expressed.
Estavillo continued to urge the utilization of the elections to forward the masses’ interests and shared Amihan’s support for the continuation of peace talks.
National Chairperson and first nominee of Anakpawis Party-list Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano presented their platform, including the passing of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) and Free Land Distribution Bill.
“Ipinaglalaban ng Anakpawis ang lupa, sahod, trabaho, paninirahan at karapatan; ibig sabihin ay sapat at nakabubuhay na sahod, sapat at permanenteng trabaho, abot-kayang pabahay, at sapat na serbisyong panlipunan,” he added.
[Anakpawis fights for land, salary, job, housing, and rights; meaning adequate wages, sufficient and permanent jobs, affordable housing, and adequate social services.]
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and senatorial hopeful Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog stressed that true representation of the broad peasant sector is important in the coming elections.
“Ilang beses na tayong tinawag ng Kongreso bilang speaker, pero ngayon dapat nang magkarepresentasyon ang mga manggagawa sa paggawa ng batas para isulong ang batayang karapatan ng sektor, unang una na ang pagtaas ng sahod,” the KMU chairperson affirmed.
[Many times we have been called in the Congress as speakers, but now, it is imperative that the laborers be given representation in the crafting of laws to forward sectoral rights, first and foremost is the increase in minimum wage.]
The program also saw various cultural performances, such as those from Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan (SINAGBAYAN), about the peasants’ struggle.
The fight of ST farmers
Led by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA TK), the ST delegation trooped to Metro Manila areas, from Camp Aguinaldo to government department offices, a day before uniting with the national delegation.
Participants highlighted several land disputes in the region and called for the distribution of P10,000 farmers aid and P15,000 for production subsidies amid pandemic.
They also forwarded demands to abolish land-use conversion (LUC) and evictions of farmers, for distribution of coco levy funds to farmers, and to hold Duterte accountable for his massive criminal neglect over his administration’s failed pandemic response.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Laguna spokesperson recalled the victims of fascism under the Duterte administration. He claimed that Hacienda Yulo farmers are still being threatened by arson attempts while the peasant sector in general continues to experience planting of weapons by local police forces.
The dlegate from Defend Yulo Farmers Network said that the progress from the DAR and the administration as a whole has been slow in resolving the attacks experienced by Yulo farmers while a speaker from Samahang Magsasaka ng Kapdula (SAMAKA) criticized the decisions by DAR for their ongoing case (READ: More Hacienda Yulo homes ransacked, residents harassed by ‘hired goons’ as farmers hold ground against onslaughts).
Delegates from Rizal and Batangas shared their experiences of intense flooding due to the ongoing development projects, and the absence of progress or aid received after the Taal eruption that happened nearly two years ago, respectively. (READ: Grupong maralita, nananawagang pigilan ang quarrying sa Rizal).
Residents from Batangas pushed for decent housing and aid as they are even being charged for rent despite their livelihood being affected.
“Hindi na po kami papayag sa basta-bastang pangako lalo ngayong eleksyon. Pakinggan ninyo ang hinaing ng masa [We will not accept hollow promises this coming election. Hear the pleas of the masses],” they demanded.
In addition, a delegate from Rizal recounted the situation of farmers from different farmlands in Rizal as they are continuously duped by their landlords and red-tagged by state forces (READ: Banta sa laban para sa karapatan: Grupong maralita sa Rizal, patuloy na ginagambala ng red-tagging, militarisasyon).
Meanwhile a speaker from BAYAN Cavite said that their province has experienced forced eviction from their local government.
“Sa gitna ng pandemya, ang ibinibigay lamang ay walang lamang mga pangako. Sa ganitong kalagayan, mag-aalsa ang mangingisda, ang magsasaka, at makabayang nakakaintindi sa hinaing ng mga Kabitenyo,” they said.
[In the midst of the pandemic, only hollow promises are being spoken. With this situation, the fishermen, farmers, and the masses who understand the concerns of the Kabitenyos will inevitably resist.] (READ: Cavite farmers, shopkeepers stand against demolition threats)
Representative Eufemia Cullamat stood in solidarity with the peasant sector stating, “Sila ang pangunahing pwersa upang makamit ang food security sa bansa […] Ang tulong ng magsasaka ay hindi pa nabibigay. Pinagkaitan pa ng tulong at ayuda ang ating mga magsasaka.”
[The peasants are the primary force for us to achieve food security […] The aid for farmers have not been given yet. They have been deprived of sufficient aid.]
Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK) -KMU spokesperson remarked that in spite of the promises ending contractualization, workers still struggle under the Duterte administration and even face attacks from the AFP and PNP in their workplace.
Notwithstanding attacks, she asserted that workers will continue to mobilize, “Simulang pumutok ang pandemya, marami sa kabababayan natin ang hindi nakatanggap ng ayuda at nawalan ng kabuhayan. Marami sa mga lider-manggagawa ay iligal na inaresto at pinaslang.”
[From the onset of the pandemic, many of our fellow Filipinos did not receive aid and have even lost their livelihood. Many labor leaders were illegally arrested and killed.] (READ: Mga grupo ng manggagawa, nanawagan sa DILG na tigilan ang panghaharas, pananakot sa mga unyonistang Wyeth)
A Samahang Magsasaka ng Tartaria (SAMATA) member shared that the land that is rightfully theirs is being occupied by the landlords, and that the DAR has been silent.
Another delegate from Lupang Ramos expressed that the residing farmers are frustrated with the bureaucracy they experience with DAR as the interests of the elites are prioritized over the masses.
Meanwhile, KASAMA TK Deputy Secretary and Regional Coordinator of Anakpawis TK Jess Miranda questioned the credibility and effectiveness of the DAR, as agrarian reform under different administrations has only served the ruling class (READ: Estado ng agraryo sa Timog Katagalugan).
Miranda continued to condemn the senatorial campaign of Secretary John Castriciones who did not serve the interests of the peasant sector.
“Kay Duterte, at Castriciones mismo, hindi kami namamalimos sa inyo kundi kinukuha namin ang nararapat na sa amin [Duterte and Castriciones, we will not beg. Instead, we will only get what is rightfully ours],” she said.
Miranda also held their petition containing their calls and questions the passing of neoliberal policies, saying that only a small portion of representatives truly forward the interests of the masses.
“Sa pamamagitan ng pananakot, pinipilit ni Duterte na umupo ulit ang kanilang mga tuta, crony, at bayaran. Paninindigan po namin na ibabalik namin sa kongreso ang tunay na boses ng masang anakpawis,” Miranda exclaimed.
[Through threats, Duterte is forcing their cronies to remain in power. We are firm in bringing the voice of the masses in congress.]
In solidarity with the farmers’ calls, cultural presentations from Teatro Kabataan Mula sa Nayon (TEKA MUNA) were also performed and the delegation paid tribute to the martyrs of the ST region.
On attack against fisherfolk
ST groups also mobilized in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Office led by peasant and fisherfolk.
Pambansang Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) NAIC Spokesperson criticized the corporations that continue to attack the fisherfolk in Cavite. (READ: Fisherfolk, residents protest potential loss of livelihood; DENR neglects calls to junk demolition move)
A delegate from the same province described the conditions on the seaside as inhumane seeing that boats of Vista Marine dump waste and chemicals. They denounced the neglect of the DENR and called to stop the reclamation projects.
According to Ka Bobby of PAMALAKAYA, the demolition and reclamation projects that were stated by the ST delegates are experienced by fisherfolk nationwide.
He noted that the DENR does the opposite of their responsibility to condemn these projects.
Moreover, Spokesperson of Anakbayan Sitio Ibayo recounted their situation as their area is continually privatized and the rights of Ibayo residents are violated.
Gabriela Women’s Party-list Representative Arlene Brosas highlighted the struggles faced by fisherfolk and peasants by the prioritization of imports over their livelihood.
“Hindi [natin kailangan] yung maglilingkod para sa iilan; ang kailangan natin ang maglilingkod para sa ordinaryong mamamayan [We do not public servants who are for the elite; we need those who are for the ordinary people],” the representative added.
Despite intimidation from state forces and other difficulties, Miranda rendered the protest actions successful.
“Kinakaharap tayo ng hamon ng Eleksyon 2022, sa banta ng pagpapalayas, at sa kawalan ng karapatan. Walang hamon ang malaki kapag sa harap ng maninindigang magsasaka at mamamayan,” she declared.
[We are faced with the challenge this Election 2022 amidst threats to our basic rights, forced evictions. No challenge is too much for the militant people.]
Illegal arrests and continued crackdown
Karapatan TK spokesperson Salgado said that the implementation of Executive Order 70 gave state forces power to attack progressives from different sectors. He recalled the massacre and arrests that happened on “Bloody Sunday”, which have not been resolved to this day (READ: 5 patay, 7 arestado matapos ang ‘Bloody Sunday’ sa Timog Katagalugan).
A delegate from Batangas also recollected the trumped-up charges against Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Batangas Spokesperson Lino “Ka Lino” Baez and Anakpawis Batangas Coordinator Willy “Ka Willy” Capareño among the many injustices experienced by progressives in the region (READ: 2 lider-aktibista mula sa Batangas, dinakip sa Quezon, binansagang NPA; pulisya at militar, sadya umanong pinabagal ang proseso).
Just days before the protest actions, former organizer of Amihan-Cagayan, Cristina Magistrado, was arrested in her home in Binangonan, Rizal by seven PNP Tuguegarao officers in civilian clothes, October 17.
According to Taripnong Cagayan Valley, she has been taken to Tuguegarao City to face trumped-up charges.
Magistrado is the latest among the growing list of peasants who have been illegally arrested and are facing trumped-up charges due to the anti-insurgency campaign launched by the Duterte administration.
In an official statement, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano decried Magistrado’s arrest as another blatant attack on peasant women in the country.
“Sa halip na tulungan ang mga kababayan natin sa Norte na nasalanta ng Bagyong Maring, pinili ng gobyerno na pagkagastusan ang panreredtag at paglabag sa karapatang-pantao ng mga magsasaka,” the federation commented.
[Instead of helping our countrymen in the North affected by Typhoon Maring, the government chose to spend funds to red-tag and violate farmers’ rights.]
Typhoon Maring, which struck the country this Peasant Month, has caused more than 1 billion pesos in damages in the agriculture sector in the country, with Cagayan Valley suffering a loss of 117 million pesos according to Amihan
As part of their campaign to defend peasant women, the confederation pressed for the immediate release of all peasant women arrested or detained with non-bailable charges.
These charges commonly involve illegal possession of firearms and explosives – the usual case slapped on activists by state forces who conduct raids on homes and offices.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Partylist (KPL) Laguna and Gabriela Youth (GY) Laguna in separate Facebook posts also denounced the trumped-up charges against Magistrado saying that her arrest is an obvious attack towards peasants who have no other goal but to forward their legitimate calls.
“Kahit sa kalagitnaan ng pagdiriwang sa Buwan ng mga Pesante, hindi tumitigil ang rehimeng Duterte sa panunupil sa sambayanan, higit lalo sa mga magsasaka na siyang lubos na pinahihirapan [Even in the middle of celebrating Peasant Month, the Duterte regime continues to repress the people, most especially the farmers who are suffering under him],” GY Laguna said in their post.
Meanwhile, Soriano asked for the regime to halt the attacks towards peasant women saying, “Sa halip na pangalagaan niyo ang ating food producers ay sinasalaula niyo sila at nilalagay sa mas lalong kapahamakan. Sa halip na buhayin niyo ang taumbayan ay pinapatay niyo kami [Instead of taking care of our food producers, you put them into more harm. Instead of helping us live, you are killing us],” Soriano ended.
As of September 2021, 340 farmers were killed, including 44 peasant women. Sixty-five of the 81 peasant women political prisoners were imprisoned under Duterte.
According to Amihan, peasant women political prisoners, particularly pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly, suffer neglect and worsening health conditions in prisons, and sometimes death. [P]
Photo by Cian Tacasa
Layout by AJ Atayde