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.

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)