Farmer-leaders and representatives of the more than fifty municipal chapters of the peasant alliance Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa SB) reaffirmed, during the 7th Regional Congress and 28th anniversary of the alliance, with full commitment to reinvigorate the peasant movement in the region by launching a wave-by-wave mass actions to forward their call towards genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.
Local peasant groups pledged to double the now almost 20,000 membership of Sagupa SB as this year’s theme “Padig-unon ngan pahiluagon an kagiusan parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas! Isahon an porma han mga pakigbisog para ha tinuod nga reporma ha tuna ngan nasudnon nga industriyalisasyon!” stresses the importance of the organizations expansion and consolidation in advancing their struggle.
No change under the US-Duterte regime—Flores
Peasant group reiterated during the convention that despite having a progressive and pro-farmers Agrarian Reform Secretary, Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, the long-time crisis of feudalism in the country remains with the sustained political, economic, and military control of feudal lords alongside with the bureucrat capitalists in the country.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores cited how the Duterte administration continued and promoted the neoliberal economic policies stressing that only through genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization could an authentic economic progress be attained.
In Eastern Visayas, the figure remains that seven out of ten farmers are landless and serve as tenants and/or farm workers to a few landlords in the region. Sagupa SB reveals that the land lords in the region have revamped a lot of scheme to institutionalize feudalism such as “employing” farm workers instead of tenants while the government and I/NGOs introduce new farm tools and machines to make farming less labor extensive. These ensure the super-profit of land lords according to Sagupa SB Deputy Secretary General Nestor Lebico.
The farmer-leaders also slammed Duterte’s open declaration of the peace talks termination although no written document from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) stating that they are officially terminating the talks with the Philippine left has been submitted yet.
“We call on President Duterte to stop waging a war against the farmers and people through his neoliberal economic policies and militarist character and give us our land instead through the resumption of the peace process”, said Sagupa SB Secretary General Jun Berino.
Rise of military attacks against farmers
Aside from landlessness and slow government-sponsored relief and rehabilitation program for farmers affected by crop infestation, the peasant group also placed militarization and the Philippine Army’s violation of Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as farmers’ top problem in the region.
In time for the International Humanitarian Law month, Sagupa SB revealed that military attacks against civilians and farmers rise especially with Duterte’s inexplicit declaration of war against the people. “The AFP is trying to disband and weaken our local peasant organizations by either trying to lure them with financial aid or through extreme forms such as harassment, military encampment, intimidation and coercion”, said Berino.
KMP accounts around 79 farmers killed under the Duterte administration alone, two of them are from Eastern Visayas. Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas have also reported that military elements launched aerial bombings in two barrios in Matuguinao, Western Samar during the first quarter of this year which led to massive and forced evacuation. The AFP has also tied-up with local government officials in the enforcement of their counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.
“We shall not forget how previous US-sponsored counter-insurgency programs killed a lot of our farmers. Oplan Kapayapaan is no different from those programs”, said Lebico.
Mag-uuma nga Nagkahiusa (MaNa), peasant chapter in Albuera, reports that military troops are trying to disband their organization to form the AFP-led group Kilusang Pagbabago in their area instead. Similar cases have been reported in different parts of Samar and Leyte islands.
To struggle is to win—EV farmers
“Ang yuta gipakigbisogan (We fight for our land)” said the farmer-leader of San Isidro Municipal Farmers’ Association (SIMFA) who, alongside with his late husband, initiated the occupation of the 704-hectare Margarita-Agro Estate Corp. The farmers and tillers of hacienda MAIC continue to resist against the despotic landlords as they continue fighting for their land titles.
Berino urged the farmers in the region to never leave their land while fighting for free land distribution and national industrialization. “The greatest thing that we could do as farmers is to educate our co-tillers as we expand our ranks, organize and consolidate them to also inflame them against this rotten feudal system”, Berino stressed.
Two-term Sagupa SB Chairman Lourdes Galano then urged the regional peasant movement to continue struggling towards victory.