“The sickle is no equal to terrorism, release our farmers now!” – Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas

Following GRP’s hosting of the 2017 ASEAN Summit attended by US President and the current face of imperialism Donald Trump, Duterte’s tongue-lashing over progressive groups, and the 360 proclamation and termination of peace negotiations with the Philippine reds, four farmers in Samar island in the Eastern Visayas region were nabbed by military elements in a span of two weeks.

Fourteen days after the illegal arrest of Marabut, Samar peasant-leader and head of Tag-alag Farmers and Fisherfolks Association Carlito “James” Badillo who admitted being harassed, tortured, and threatened by elements of the 87th Infantry Battalion last November 10, three more farmers in Palapag, Northern Samar were abducted by alleged elements of the 20th Infantry Battalion. The farmers and members of the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) who were identified as Richard Avino, Teny Gerbon, and Arnel Aquino are believed to be detained at the detachment of the 20th IB at Brgy. Opong, Catubig, Northern Samar.

The three farmers from Northern Samar are still left unsurfaced as soldiers refuse to disclose their whereabouts. For two consecutive days, the family of the said farmers and human rights group Katungod Northern Samar went to the detachment of the 20th IB in the town proper of Palapag, Northern Samar, urging the military to release the abducted farmers. But instead of discharging the peasant group members, a suspected soldier phone-called Katungod Northern Samar Secretary General Sargie Macallan yesterday, November 24, asking who among the arrested persons would he choose to die.

In Matuguinao, Samar, sixty families were forced to evacuate to the forests due to the intensifying militarization in their town. The military did not only bring fear to these peasant communities but also paralyze their livelihood, thus a threat to their lives. It can be recalled that there have been aerial bombings in the said town since May this year as recorded by Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas.

Aside from the warrantless searches, suspicious men have been hopping from peasant organization to peasant organization, presenting pictures of staffs of Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas and asking for their names and address. Tailings over peasant leaders and human rights workers all over the region have also been intensified.

Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa SB) calls for the immediate release of Badillo who is currently facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives as charged by the military and to swiftly surface the three farmers in Palapag, Northern Samar. The regional peasant group pressed that the Duterte administration and the AFP must be held accountable for the intensifying human rights violations in Eastern Visayas. Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas also urge the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to record and act upon these human rights abuses.

“The sickle is no equal to terrorism. We challenge the Philippine Army to release our farmers now,” said Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas Secretary General Jun Berino.

With a hundred and fifty new soldiers in Eastern Visayas and four more military battalions to be re-deployed in the region, more human rights violations and similar cases are possible to happen.

“Soldiers in the region under the 8th Infantry Division are intensifying their Community Support Programs (CSP), deploying more Peace and Development Teams (PDT) to barrios, now fully disregarding the International Human Rights Law (IHL). This is all because of the foolishness of their head, Rodrigo Duterte, to terminate peace talks and declare an all-out war against its very people,” said Berino.

According to Berino, militancy and resistance with vigilance at this tempestuous times are things the Filipino people, especially the marginalized sectors, should practice.

Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas urges the public to report all the human rights abuses and suspicious actions of alleged military elements in the region while actively supporting the back-to-back mass actions and protests.

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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)