Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag
“We are calling for the people to go to the farmlands to see the plight of the farmers firsthand and to see how the government has done nothing to help the farmers.”
This was the statement of Defend Rizal’s Mark Louie Hizon in an exclusive interview with the Perspective, as farmers continue to grapple with harassment even on Peasant Day itself.
Last October 21, 11 homes belonging to farmers in Sitio Seedling, Barangay Macabud, Rodriguez, Rizal were illegally demolished by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
According to Jerry Luna, chairman of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), no legal documents were presented to the farmers of Sitio Seedling, nor were there consultations made between the farmers and MWSS officials prior to the demolition.
“Sagad-sagarang pambabastos ang ginawa nilang demolisyon sa mismong araw pa na ginugunita natin ang Araw ng Uring Magsasaka. Walang awa ang MWSS na hindi kinunsidera ang pandemya,” Luna said.
According to Hizon, families of the farmers affected by the demolition have temporarily settled in a different place but are planning to return to fight for their right to land and genuine agrarian reform.
KASAMA-TK warned that the recent demolition may not be the last. According to the farmers’ organization, there are reports stating that the Star-E Agency and Catalina Security Agency may be employed to continue the demolition of 25 more farmers’ homes.
KASAMA-TK added that more than 2,270 hectares of land is being claimed by the MWSS as part of the La Mesa Dam. It can be recalled that MWSS itself is also responsible for facilitating the Kaliwa Dam construction, which poses threat to the environment and the lives of indigenous peoples in the Sierra Madre regions (READ: Defending Makidyapat’s land: Dumagats continue fight against Kaliwa Dam project).
Hizon asserted that the MWSS has never been able to show any evidence establishing their right in Sitio Seedling.
Meanwhile, according to Orly Marcellana, regional coordinator of Tanggol Magsasaka TK, Sitio Seedling farmers have been cultivating their territory since the 1990s, long before the MWSS showed interest in taking the land.
Marcellana added that they have long been in dialogue with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) regarding launching an Ocular Inspection to identify agricultural land to be distributed to farmers. This is in accordance with Executive Order 75, which instructs all government agencies to identify agricultural lands that can be distributed to farmers. Both DA and DENR have yet to take action.
Farmers’ unwithering struggles
The Sitio Seeding demolition is far from being the only harassment that Rizal residents face, as according to Hizon, there had been constant military presence in the said area. For instance, urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran, at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan, at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3) has been a constant target of red-tagging and militarization (READ: Banta sa laban para sa karapatan: Grupong maralita sa Rizal, patuloy na ginagambala ng red-tagging, militarisasyon).
Similar to the struggles of Sitio Seedling farmers, SIKKAD-K3, members of which reside in Rodriguez, Rizal, faces the environmental threats brought by quarrying of private companies.
“[The military] is branding the farmers as members of the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army] to justify their threats and harassment. They show lists of names who are supposedly members of CPP-NPA but they have no evidence for this. They just want to continue threatening and harassing the farmers so that they can silence the voices of the farmers who are fighting for their rights,” Hizon added.
On Bloody Sunday, eight indigenuous farmers were illegally arrested by the Police Regional Office 4A after a house-to-house operation in Brgy. Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal.
Such struggles of peasants from the Rizal province extend to farmers from other Southern Tagalog areas (READ: Plight of the peasants).
For instance, farmers of Sitio Buntog in Hacienda Yulo, Calamba City, Laguna experienced continuous harassment from “paid goons” with high caliber guns, leaving many of their homes completely ransacked and burned (READ: More Hacienda Yulo homes ransacked, residents harassed by ‘hired goons’ as farmers hold ground against onslaughts; Matapos ang harassment sa mga residente, tatlong bahay sinunog sa Hacienda Yulo).
In light of the continued harassment, Hizon continues to invite everyone to be one in the fight of the farmers.
“We also call for help in amplifying the calls of our farmers in any way we can such as on social media or in conversations with our families and friends in order to join the farmers in their fight for genuine agrarian reform,” Hizon said. [P]