Why is Duterte’s War on Drugs anti-farmers?

Even before Duterte took oath as the President of the Republic of the Philippines, he already strongly manifested his will to end the illegal drug trade in the country which actually gathered support even from the left. Months later, there seemed to be a change in course when progressive groups denounced Duterte’s bloody drug war. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), through its official website, claims that there have already been 13,000 drug-related killings. And the nation must have been shaken when the 17-year old Kian Delos Santos was reportedly killed by no less than the Philippine National Police.

Progressive groups, including farmers’ organizations, all over the country urge Duterte to end his war on drugs, also seeking justice for all the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings.

Alliance for the advancement of People’s Rights, Karapatan, reports that about 66 farmers were killed under the first year of the Duterte administration. But if we look into it, most of them, if not all, weren’t killed due to the drug war but because of political affiliations. Why then should progressive farmers’ groups such as Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas and other Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas regional chapters nationwide condemn the brutal war on drugs? Does it have any direct effect towards the farmers? How is it related to their struggle against land monopoly?

War against the poor

It has long been established that Duterte’s drug war is anti-poor. Mr. President himself openly declares that it is the poor who are more engaged in drugs, saying that they are “ignorant and more likely to be hit”. His peculiar vulgarity as manifested in his speeches is, unfortunately, a testament of his anti-lower class policies.

Instead of targeting the big drug lords, the top individuals behind the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the country, the Philippine National Police along with their vigilante groups are eyeing on the small drug users and dealers through “cleaning the streets”. Of the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings, we coulds only count on our fingers the number of relatively politically-epowered individuals who were also hit by government armed officials. The bigger fishes are still left protected through their political and military power.

If Duterte really has a clean intention to end the drug menace, he must have taken into consideration that the country’s drug problem is not detached from the whole socioeconomic problem in the country. A rehabilitative, instead of punitive, solution must have arisen. In fact, the towering number of people involved in illegal drugs is a reflection of the government’s failure to address the country’s problem of joblessness. Similarly, the continuation of the drug problem in the country is a testimony that Duterte’s economic policies fail to address the very reason why the poor engage themselves in illegal drug trade and this also manifests that Duterte’s war on drugs is nothing but a failure.

From “left” to right: Disregarding people’s issues

While the Duterte administration invests all the hype to end the drug menace through murderous means, the socioeconomic concerns of the basic sectors are still unaddressed. Contrary to his pro-people pronouncements, Duterte is now exposing his rightist tendencies: forwarding neoliberal economic policies, promoting fascism, and simply advertising anti-people programs. The characteristics Duterte once had that made him famous to the masses are all gone except one: his unnecessary straightforwardness which could be of help if only he uses it to advance people’s rights.

In May this year, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) boycotted the fifth round of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), expressed his seriousness over the termination of talks for reasons both the NDFP and the CPP invalidated.

The “meat” of the talks was supposed to be discussed in the fifth round. The two panels were too close to finally signing a paper on free land distribution. We could only imagine solving the number one problem of the majority of the population in the country – landlessness. But dealing people’s issues must not be on Duterte’s top priorities. Consequently, 75% or more than 75 million people are still suffering from the exploitation of the few ruling elite.

While the issue of joblessness, landlessness, inaccessible education and basic social services remain unaddressed, the drug menace will not cease. Not to mention that the “filthy” bureaucracy takes a huge role in the proliferation of illegal drug trade.

Dividing classes

Duterte’s drug war gathered diverse opinions from the lower class up to the upper middle class. It promotes and strengthens the stereotyping of classes – that the poor are the ones who are more likely to commit “filthy works” while the rich are less likely to deal with it. The same is true when our rotten education system teaches us that farmers’ poverty is due to their indolence. This is a manifestation of an anti-people culture even more intensified by the present administration for the sole purpose of protecting his power.

But why does the Duterte administration or whoever is behind the war on drugs have to put a huge gap between the lower and the middle class?

The alliance of the basic sectors and the middle class have broadened under the Duterte administration, especially on the issue of just and lasting peace. The united front has become more vocal in advancing national democracy.

Aside from using political, economic and military power to maintain the control of feudal lords, capitalists, and imperialists, the cultural aspect is also crucial. The present administration appears to be maximizing these aspects.

The current administration’s drug war, however, is bound to fail if we continue to broaden our alliance against Duterte’s drug war and the looming tyranny. The rich history of our country teaches us well-enough to fight against a fascist dictatorship.

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Renewed determination: EV farmers to put struggle for genuine agrarian reform to greater heights

Makigbisog! Magdaog!

 

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.

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Ka Tonying Flores of KMP National inducts Sagupa SB’s new set of officers.

 

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.

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KMP Secretary General Ka Tonying Flores urged EV farmers to expose and oppose the intensifying neoliberal economic policies of the Duterte administration.

 

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.

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Sagupa SB Secretary General Jun Berino presents the organization’s three-year General Plan of Action.

 

Two-term Sagupa SB Chairman Lourdes Galano then urged the regional peasant movement to continue struggling towards victory.

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EV farmers danced the popular “kuratsa” to celebrate their victories through the years.

 

MAGTAGUMPAY! | PH farmers unite to advance their struggle towards victory

LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY—More than 1,400 farmers convened during the 8th National Congress of the broadest alliance of the peasant sector in the country with more than two hundred thousand members, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Dubbed as “MAGTAGUMPAY! Palawakin at patatagin ang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas! Paigtingin ang pakikibaka para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon!”, farmer-representatives from the fifteen different regions in the Philippines gathered to forward their call for a free land distribution and an end to land monopolization.

The said congress was attended by Agrarian Reform Sec. and former KMP National Chairperson Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission Lead Convenor Liza Maza, Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao and Kilusang Mayo Uno Sec. Gen. Jerome Adonis who gave their solidarity messages during the first day of the event.

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A press conference was held on the second day of the congress. (Photo from NNARA Youth)

 

Farmers harvest victories; ready for greater struggles

After decades of fighting and calling for the downfall of the feudal lords After decades of fighting and calling for the downfall of the feudal lords in the country, farmers have already gained countless victories and are yet to gather a lot more as they continue holding organized mass actions in all of the regions in the Philippines according to the national peasant alliance.

International League of Peoples’ Struggle Chairperson Jose Maria Sison, in his solidarity message, said that farmers through the leadership of KMP remained intact and are now even stronger despite continuous threats from the despotic landlords and military troops which includes harassment, intimidation and killings of farmer-activists. National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants Wilma Austria-Tiamzon and Benito Tiamzon also expressed their highest salute to KMP for always pioneering the need for a strong peasant movement in the country.

It can be recalled that Hacienda Luisita have recently been placed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which will pave the way for the distribution to farmers who for a long time fought for their land grabbed by the Cojuangcos. The organized mass action in Lapanday – MARBAI also led to a fruitful harvest. Just this year, irrigation was declared free and is already being implemented by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA). Agrarian Reform Secretary Mariano also passed countless administrative orders in favor of the farmers in his first year of service, but these, according to him, are still limited as landlords holding big positions in the government actively interrupts the full institutionalization of these orders.

Mariano, in his speech, reiterated that there is a need for the farmers to push the present reactionary government to give in to their demands. “All of the victories we harvested are the fruits of our never-ending struggle”, Mariano said.

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DAR Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano delivering his solidarity message (Photo from DAR)

 

On the 8th historic gathering of farmer-leaders throughout the Philippines, all chapters of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas once again affirmed to advance the fight of the peasant sector as they play their role in leading the of the mass movement in the country.

Newly-elected KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos, in his closing remarks, held the farmer’s symbolic bolo as he chanted “Lupa ay laya!” (Land is freedom!). Ang lupa ay hindi hinihingi. Ang lupa ay ipinaglalaban. (We don’t beg for our land. We fight for it.)”, Ramos concluded.

EV peasant alliance to launch more farmer movements

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Farmer-leaders from Eastern Visayas attended the three-day Congress in Bicol. (Photo from KMP)

 

Regional peasant alliance in Eastern Visayas, Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa – SB) which have been organizing farmers for twenty-eight years, will be launching more intensified and higher level of mass actions to shake the feudal lords and bureaucrat capitalists in Region VIII who have been putting the farmers’ lives in “misery” according to Sagupa – SB Sec. Gen. and former member of KMP National Council Nestor Lebico.

“Majority of the more than 700,000 hectares of land in Eastern Visayas is being owned and controlled by the region’s ruling elite which can be counted in numbers only”, Lebico said. He cited some of the major haciendas in the region such as the 704-hectare hacienda MAIC in San Isidro, Leyte and Hacienda Innaki A. Larrazabal (IAL) in Calubian, Leyte which measures up to 2,012 hectares. The widest haciendas in EV are found mostly on the northern part of Leyte.

“We are targeting to have these haciendas distributed to our farmers the soonest possible and this means more intensified protests and mass actions in the coming months”, he added.

Aside from their struggle against land monopolization, Sagupa – SB is also currently forwarding the demands of farm workers to an increased minimum wage both for sugar and non-sugar farm workers. EV farm workers are also currently affected by the agricultural liberation in the region, which is part of the government’s Yolanda rehabilitation plan. “We are not against the distribution of farm machineries but it has to be patterned with the overall situation of the peasant sector in the region wherein seven out of ten farmers in Eastern Visayas still own no land”, Lebico stressed.

The progressive peasant organization then reiterated that in the current semi-colonial semi-feudal system, victory lies not in Duterte’s hands, but in the united actions of the farmers all over the country who will be getting the land they deserve to own, wave by wave.

Kontra-parag-uma nga Balikatan 2017, atuhan!

Mahugot nga gintitipahan han mga parag-uma han Sinirangan Bisayas an natatabo nga Balikatan exercises ha siyudad han Ormoc ha Leyte ug ha Guiuan, Eastern Samar nga nagtikang dida han Mayo 8 ngan nakatalaan nga magtapos dida hit Mayo 19. Bisan pa man igin-hahambog han lokal nga pamunuan hini nga mga lugar ug mismo ni Presidente Duterte nga human and diaster relief an hinungdan hini nga natatabo nga buligay han Armed Forces of the Philippines ngan visiting forces, diri ta angay idiwara nga usa la ini nga pagkondisyon ha katawhan Pilipino agud himuon nga lehitimo an ira pagbase ha Pilipinas ngan tahuban an ira mga pan-aabuso ngan krimen nga ginhimo dinhi ha nasud.

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Naki-usa an SAGUPA – SB ha usa nga gios-protesta kontra ha Balikatan 2017 nga ginlansar kakulop, Mayo 12 ha siyudad han Tacloban. (Ginkuha tikang ha UP Vista)

US, ulo han mga man-made disaster ha nasud

Aada ha kadelikaduhan an mga parag-uma tungod han panginginlabot han Estados Unidos ha mga domestic affairs han nasud upod na dinhi an aktibo nga pakikig-kunsabuhay nira ha AFP nga yana ginpapamunuan ni Gen. Eduardo Ano. Hi Ano, upod ni Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, an nagsusulsol kan Presidente Duterte nga tugutan an padayon nga pagbase ngan panginlabot han US ha Pilipinas. Manunumduman nga bisan han panahon nga nagdeklara hi Duterte nga posible niya paiwason an mga tropa han kano ha nasud, nagpagawas hin pahayag hi Lorenzana nga magpapadayon an pagpatuman han Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sugad han napagkasarabutan.

Bisan ha pag-aabre ni Presidente Duterte ha makawala nga grupo nga National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) hin pakig-istorya ngan pakig-negosasyon para ha pagkab-ot hin kamurayawan, nagpadayon an kontra-insurhensiya nga programa han AFP nga base han mando han ira mga agaron nga kano. Sugad han mga nauna nga kontra-insurhensiya nga programa han mga nauna nga administrasyon, an US la gihapon an ulo ngan aktibo nga nagko-kontrol ha AFP. Makikit-an nga gintahuban gihapon ini nira hin community and development programs.

Pinaagi han makusog nga kontra-insurhensiya nga programa han AFP, ha pangunguna han US, napiritan magbakwit an sobra dos mil nga parag-uma han Calbiga ha Weste han Samar tungod han makusog nga panmimilitarisa han mga papet han mga kano. Usa naman nga lider-parag-uma nga gin-ngaranan nga hi Lilia Bucatcat an ginpatay hin mga gin-aalegar nga mga sundalo. Ha pagka-yana, gin-mimilitarisa gihapon an mga parag-uma ha Kagbana ha bungto han Burauen ha Leyte.

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Sobra dos mil nga mga parag-uma tikang ha kinse nga barangay han Calbiga an nagbakwit tungod han hugot nga militarisasyon ha ira lugar. (Ginkuha tikang ha Eastern Vista)

Ha bug-os nga nasud, sunod-sunod an panmatay ha mga parag-uma matapos bulkason han gobyerno han Pilipinas ngan NDFP an interim unilateral ceasefire tungod la gihapon ha pananabotahe han Estados Unidos ha iristorya pangkamurayawan. Naatubang hin hulga ha kinabuhi an mga parag-uma ha nasud tungod hit nagtitikagrabe nga militarisasyon ug apektado ini pati an ira panginabuhi.

Tuna han mga parag-uma, diri para ha base-militar han US

Lima ka bulan matapos lasurbuhon han superbagyo Yolanda an Sinirangan Bisayas, ginpirmahan ni hadto Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin ngan US Ambassador Philip Goldberg an EDCA kun diin may-ada hira mga ginkasarabutan nga lugar (agreed locations) nga pwede pag-basehan han US ha sulod han nasud.

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Agreed locations ilarum han Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement

 

Diri pabor para ha mga parag-uma nga himuon nga base-militar an katunaan nga unta iginpanhatag ha ira sugad nala han unod han ira iginsusulong nga tinuod nga reporma ha tuna. Imbes na pagpulsan han mga imperyalista an karikuhan han nasud, angay lugod nga igdistribwer ini ha mga parag-uma para han kalugaringon nga pag-uswag han nasud. Lakip ha Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, nga yana ginsusulong mismo ni Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, an pagdistribwer han ngatanan nga public agricultural lands sugad han mga military reservations.

An imperyalista nga US an numero uno nga rason han kakurian ngan han kagutuman han mga parag-uma ngan han mga batakan nga sektor ha nasud Pilipinas. Ginsisiguro han US nga magpabilin an piyudalismo ha nasud agud masiguro an ira pan-ekonomiya nga gahum ug an pagpahaluag han ira teritoryo.

Ulang an Estados Unidos ha pag-solbar han maiha na nga giyera sibil ha nasud. Ulang an Estados Unidos ha pagpatuman han maiha na nga hingyap han mga parag-uma nga libre nga pagdistribwer han tuna. Ulang an Estados Unidos ha dayuday nga pagpakyas han monopolisasyon han tuna ha nasud.

US interbensyun, tipahan!

Iginpapanawagan han Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA – SB) an pagpaiwas han mga tropa han kano ha Ormoc ngan Guiuan ug ha bug-os nga nasud ngan an pagbasura han mga diri patas nga kasarabutan-militar nga Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) ug Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Diri ta angay tugutan nga tamas-tamasan han imperyalista nga US an soberanya han nasud Pilipinas.

Kasumpay han aton pagtipa han interbensyon han US ha nasud, aton man liwat iginsusulong an tinuod nga reporma ha tuna ug an nasudnon nga industriyalisasyon nga amo an magbabaton han problema pan-ekonomiya han nasud. Diri ta ini makakab-ot samtang kontrolado an mga burukrata kapitalista han nasud han mga hakug nga US.

BALIKATAN 2017 HA TAHUB HADR, TIPAHAN!

VFA-EDCA, IBASURA!

Reference:

Nestor Lebico

Secretary General, SAGUPA – SB

Peasants and workers of the world, unite!

The peasants and workers, hand in hand along the same line, must revolt against all forms of oppression and labor exploitation.

In marking the 131st International Workers’ Day today, the Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB) acknowledges that several millions of farmers and workers continue to suffer from relentless exploitation under a prevailing semi-colonial and semi-feudal system. The particular unequal relations between landlords and tenants, between farmworkers and landlord compradors, have only magnified the existing exploitative social relations that also exists in several farmlands of Leyte, Samar and Biliran islands. Meanwhile, several cases of unfair labor treatment, extremely low wages and the persistence of contractualization remain a reality despite expressed opposition from the workers and farmers under the present administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Particularly in Eastern Visayas, agricultural workers receive only an actual P150.00 to 250.00 pesos a day, or even less, despite the government’s own wage order in the region mandating for a daily minimum wage for non-sugar and sugar workers pegged at P251.00 and P245.00 pesos, respectively. In effect, the anti-worker Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Region VIII only wanted to provide a very meager amount of P10.00 peso wage increment. Compounded with the condition of job insecurity, several farmworkers in towns and haciendas in the region also decry the lack of access to regular workers benefits, basic social services as well as the deprivation of their right to till their own land for those who chose to engage in farm production.

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Newly-approved minimum wage rates in Eastern Visayas (taken from the official page of National Wages and Poverty Commission)

Conversely, the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is important so as to advance the basic social demands of farmers and workers. We will work hard in the grassroots to support the signing this year of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). We believe that by implementing genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, the roots of massive poverty in the country will be addressed. A genuine agrarian reform will address the country’s problem of land monopoly in favor of peasants composing more than 70 percent of the population. Meanwhile, by industrializing the economy we mean to break the prevailing export-oriented and import-dependent economy along the line of self-reliance and independence.

However, in Eastern Visayas, we despise the military presence of the United States that intends to further subjugate our own sovereign interests over the country’s own natural resources and people. We reject the conduct of the Balikatan War exercises in Ormoc and Guiuan, both in Eastern Visayas, that apparently shows the government implicit approval to their militarist advances in furtherance of the US imperialist’s neoliberal policies in the local economy which, for a long time, has served only the interests of a few ruling elite in the country and the world.

The Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA – SB) extends its salutation to the working class who continue to arouse, organize and mobilize its rank since over a hundred and thirty-one years ago. In the coming months, we wish to build further our unity with the rest of the exploited classes against all forms of neoliberal policies being imposed by the world’s imperialist powers, and further reinforced through policies under President Rodrigo Duterte who had once claimed that he is a “socialist,” progressive and pro-workers during the beginning of his term.

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SAGUPA – SB Secretary General Nestor Lebico giving his support statement during the Labor day mobilization held at corner Real, Rizal St, Tacloban City.

We pledge to further escalate our resistance and heighten our militancy amid challenges and conditions of oppression where democratic rights are being curtailed by fascist policies. We belong to the 99% who will continue to rally behind the call for genuine reforms along the path of national democracy with a socialist perspective.

Farmers and workers of the world, unite!
(Photos from KMU – Eastern Visayas and Pinoyweekly)

87th IBPA forced to pull out troops in Calbiga, evacuees return home

After five days of evacuation, beleaguered residents from fifteen barangays of Calbiga, Samar have already returned to their homes after a successful dialogue with the local government unit, Social Welfare Regional Director Restituto Macuto and representatives from the 87th Infantry Battalion (IB) headed by their Commanding Officer Lt. Col Arnel Floresca last April 9, Sunday. Two dialogues took place on the said date, one set by Calbiga Mayor Luzviminda Nacario and the other initiated by local peasant group Kapunungan han mga Parag-uma ha Weste han Samar (KAPAWA) and People Surge.

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Disregarding militarization

In the first dialogue held at the municipal hall of Calbiga, evacuees, represented by People Surge – Calbiga Chapter Secretary General Lina Tabuyan supported by Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA – SB) Secretary General Nestor Lebico and People Surge Secretary General Marissa Cabaljao, received a negative response from the panel stating that evacuees should just return to their homes and “set aside” their issue on militarization.

Lebico pressed that the evacuees, mostly farmers, are demanding for a total pull out of the military troops in the affected barrios, an end to all forms of human rights violations such as harassment, coercion and torture being committed against several farmers in Calbiga, as well as payment for the damage to farmers’ properties and livelihood caused by the government armed troops.

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Municipal Social Welfare Development Officer (MSWDO) Eva Ranas and a representative from the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) even denounced Cabaljao, Lebico and Tabuyan for what they call deplorable situation of the evacuees in the basketball court of Calbiga but failed to address the root cause of the evacuation.

“It is ironic and uncritical for the members of the panel to feel sympathy for the evacuees and tell us to see the bigger picture, but fail to see the actual circumstances that led to this massive evacuation”, Lebico said.

After almost three hours of raising their claims, the members of the panel headed by Mayor Nacario agreed to proceed to the basketball court and persuade the evacuees to return to their homes, brushing aside their representatives manifestations for “not being able to speak enough”, according to Cabaljao.

On red-tagging

Representatives of the evacuees to the closed-door dialogue were harassed by 87th IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col Arnel Floresca by openly linking them to the rebel armed group. Floresca told Cabaljao that she cannot deny the connection of the alliance and SEC-registered organization People Surge to the New People’s Army.

“It is but disgraceful for a military officer in his combat uniform to openly wage a psywar against us”, said Cabaljao.

Floresca even urged the panel to dissuade from listening to Cabaljao, Lebico and Tabuyan as the military official allege that the evacuation was simply orchestrated by the “organizers” themselves. He also said that they are even grateful every time a mobilization is held because “they can read the minds of the NPA leaders.”

Floresca had put the blame to the three representatives and “begged” them to convince the evacuees to just return to their homes since he alleged that these leaders “organized the evacuation.” An MPOC member even told Cabaljao to talk to the NPA leaders and ask them to “leave the communities of Calbiga to finally bring peace to their town.” This is contrary to the manifesto of the evacuees saying that it is the Philippine Army who are waging war in their barrios.

“The AFP always resort to red-tagging when people expose their fascist tendencies. It is just disappointing that the people who should take the side of the oppressed are the same people who give legitimacy to the military’s atrocities”, Cabaljao stressed.

“We don’t want them in our communities”

Discontented with the result of the first dialogue, Cabaljao initiated an open dialogue with the panel at the basketball court of Calbiga, right in front the 2,357 evacuees. Victims of human rights violations gave their loudest “no” when Cabaljao asked their affirmation if they will return to their communities even with the presence of the military troops.

Residents of Barangays Daligan, Sinalangtan, Minata, Caamlongan, Guimbanga, Bulao, San Mauricio, Buluan, Binanggaran, Cambagtic, Hindang, Antol, Biri, Lubang and Literon were forced to evacuate because of fear caused by prolonged military presence in village centers – amidst the civilian populace – and for several human rights abuses perpetrated by the Philippine Army, according to local peasant organizations KAPACSA and KAPAWA. The military encampment alone inside their barrios is already a violation to the International Humanitarian Law according to Mannylin Navalez, Spokesperson of Katungod – Western Samar. “They are putting the lives of the people in danger”, said Navales.

Local peasant group KAPACSA cited that (1) barangay tanods are made to guard the military troops in their communities every night, (2) young children are made to fetch water and gather firewoods for them, (3) operating military troops hide their nameplates and identities and even refuse to give them the name of their Commanding Officer, (4) for any untoward incident that may happen to the military, they will retaliate against the barrio folks and (5) children are being co-opted to become members of the CAFGU. These are just a few of the documented violations of the Philippine Army.

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“Diri kami mabalik ha amon kun diri kamo malugsong! (We will not return to our homes unless you pull out your troops!)”, an evacuee interrupted Floresca while giving a message. Members of the crowd howled as an affirmation to the said statement.

Caught off guard, Floresca asked the barangay captain of Brgy. Cambagtic, the barrio with the most number of military officials in Calbiga, to decide whether or not he agrees to the demand of the evacuees. The barangay captain then gave his affirmation. Floresca, urged by the audience, then said he will command his troops to pull out from their communities immediately that day.

“We have once again witnessed the strength of a people united. Today, we just defeated the most fascist of the fascists. But unlike them, we didn’t use guns and bullets. We had our unity to win and prevail”, said Lebico.

Peace talks’ agreements remain unimplemented

Despite a previous unilateral ceasefire declaration by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last August 2016, the Philippine Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IB) under the 8th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) did not leave the hinterlands of Calbiga and Pinabacdao.

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KAPACSA reported that even after the GRP’s ceasefire declaration in light of the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), more troops were forward deployed to upland barrios. The operating troops started occupying the villages’ dancing halls and activity centers.

Even if the two negotiating parties agreed to strictly comply with the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), the Philippine Army continues to violate the guidelines of the agreement. According to SAGUPA – SB, the number of recorded military encampments in Eastern Visayas communities did not decrease even with the ongoing peace negotiations.

“We urge the Duterte administration, being the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to command his troops to respect people’s rights, and to comply with the signed agreements of the GRP and NDFP”, Lebico concluded.

Meanwhile, SAGUPA – SB and Katungod – Sinirangan Bisayas pledged to monitor if Floresca will really comply with his words. The two organizations are still receiving negative reports from the residents in Calbiga.

(Photos from Eastern Vista)

COCO LEVY FUND: CASH DISTRIBUTION THRU SOCIAL BENEFITS!

TACLOBAN CITY – small coconut farmers in Eastern Visayas demand cash distribution thru social benefits of coconut levy fund worth P56.5 billion which remitted to the National Treasury last September 12, 2012.

 

“We are opposing the roadmap design by NAPC (National Anti-Poverty Commission) wherein P11 billion of coco levy fund plan to utilize for 4 programs which indentified – CARPER, 4Ps, LTI (land tenure improvement) because this programs has regular government allocations,” says Nestor Lebico, Secretary-General of Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB).

 

In pursuing utilizing the coco levy fund, small coco farmers in Eastern Visayas is supporting three (3) House Bills filed in Congress by Anakpawis Partylist related to coco levy fund and coco levy industry. These are House Bill Nos. 3443, 0469 and 5070. A bill is also pending at the Senate. All these house bills seek the establishment of a body that will be dominated by small coco farmer representatives specifically the Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act.

 

“We call for financing of coconut industry development projects from initiatives of small coco farmers and their organizations/cooperatives, programs that would provide loan facilities, industry research and development programs, construction and development of post-harvest facilities, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of coconut production, livelihood program meant to provide additional incomes, institution-building programs and skills training,” added Lebico.

 

“Coco Levy fund Ibalik sa Amin,” ends Lebico.###

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