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The ill logic of rice liberalization

by Rosario Guzman/IBON Foundation

Runaway inflation has always been our economic managers’ alibi for liberalizing importation. Food always takes a beating from this short-sighted policy, as it has the single biggest weight of 36% in the average commodity basket.

Inflation reached its highest in a decade in 2018 upon the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, the most comprehensive and most regressive tax reform the country has ever had. TRAIN slapped value-added taxes and excises on consumer products, including unprecedentedly on all petroleum products. It reduced income taxes, which have benefited only the rich more than the middle class and the poor, as it has ultimately rebalanced income gains with higher prices.

But it was still the rice’s fault, according to our economic managers, and hastily they did push for the tariffication of the quantitative restrictions on the country’s staple. Rice bears a 9.6% weight on inflation and it is an extremely socially sensitive product on the same level as diesel that TRAIN had finally taxed; thus it has to be kept under control. That is their logic for subjecting local rice to undue competition with imported rice that is far better government protected and supported.

Wrong premises

Our economic managers would later point to decreased rice retail prices, although still higher than pre-tariffication levels, to support the argument that imports liberalization indeed benefits the Filipino consumer.   

It’s turning out to be a feeble argument, however, as the country would again see the highest food inflation in 27 months at the beginning of 2021, with meat and vegetables contributing the most. The apparent cause is government’s non-containment of the African swine fever epidemic in the hog subsector. But despite the obvious need for government intervention in domestic production, the official quick reaction is again liberalization, this time of pork imports.

The government has simply been pitting the welfare of local producers against that of the consumers, apparently in a principle of subordinating the interests of the few (the farmers) to the welfare of the many (the consumers). This is also wrongly premised on the Filipino consumers being concerned only with cheap commodities. Joblessness is at its worst level, while economic aid in the face of the pandemic has been meager. Majority of the Filipino consumers need to be productive first and earn decent incomes, or in the immediate be given economic relief, before they could truly benefit from lower prices. But government’s obsession with imports liberalization has only worsened the jobs crisis, loss of livelihoods, and farmers’ bankruptcy.

Denied reality

From 2018 to 2020, palay prices have gone down by an average of 19.5% for both fancy and other varieties. Palay prices are lower by a minimum of Php3.30 per kilo for other varieties, from a national average of Php20.06 to Php16.76 per kilo. Nine of the 17 regions have even lower palay prices than the national average. These are based on official statistics.

Field studies conducted on the first year of the rice tariffication law by Bantay Bigas, a nationwide network of rice advocates, showed farmgate prices going down to as low as Php10-15 per kilo. Palay prices in the range of Php10-14 per kilo were noted in the country’s rice bowls – Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Isabela, Ilocos Sur, Mindoro, Bicol, Negros Occidental, Capiz, and Antique. Palay prices in the range of Php11-15 per kilo were seen in Agusan del Sur, Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Caraga. Bantay Bigas noted that palay prices continuously declined in four consecutive cropping seasons right after the passage of the rice tariffication law.

Value of palay production went down from Php385 billion in 2018 to Php318.8 billion in 2020 despite a slight increase of 229,000 metric tons (MT) in production volume at 19.3 million MT in 2020. If the average farmgate price of Php20.06 before rice tariffication was maintained, production value would be more or less at the level of Php387 billion – thus a visible loss of Php68.3 billion in the last two years, or Php32,523 for each rice farmer.

These are based on official figures. Bantay Bigas noted that farmers in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija lost Php20,000 to Php35,000 per hectare in 2019, as farmgate prices dropped to Php14 per kilo during the dry season and Php10-13 per kilo during the wet season. Farmers in Barangay Carmen in the same municipality have mortgaged about 40% of their rice lands or an estimated 80 hectares due to depressed farmgate prices. In Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, some rice lands near the highways were already sold at Php1 million per hectare.

In 2019, rice farmers’ net income per hectare decreased by 32% in the dry season, by 47% in the wet season, and by 38% on the average as compared to figures in 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. This translated to substantially lower profitability ratio for the farmers. For every peso the rice farmer spent on one hectare, his profit declined in 2019 from 73 centavos to 53 centavos in the dry season, from 63 to 36 in the wet season, and on the average from 73 centavos to 47 centavos.

The average net income of Php21,324 in 2019 translated to Php236.93 per day in a 90-day cropping season, down from 2018’s Php34,111 or Php379.01 a day. The farmer lost Php142.08 income per day, which was way bigger than the Php4.65 per day that his family supposedly gained from cheaper rice. (Regular milled rice was reportedly cheaper by Php2.86 per kilo in 2019. The daily average per capita rice consumption is 325.5 grams or 0.3255 kilogram. Thus, 0.3255 kilogram x 5 family members x Php2.86 = Php4.65)

These are official figures. We are not even talking about rice farmers who incurred net losses.

Also incidentally, the Php236.93 income per day recorded in 2019 was short of the already incredibly low official poverty threshold of Php354 per day for a family of five. It was not even enough for the official family food threshold of Php248. The reality is undeniable: the country’s rice producers live in acute poverty and hunger, and rice liberalization is directly responsible for this irony.

The bigger picture

The rice tariffication law purports to offset these losses by allocating the tariff revenues to support farmers. We do not need to go into detail about how these are not enough or at worst tokenistic. We only need to see the trend of government’s agricultural support to conclude that the Duterte administration has put the sector aside in favor of other hollow and counter-productive budget items, including its infrastructure agenda.

The budget for agriculture in 2021 is only Php110.16 billion, merely 2.2% of the national budget. This has diminished further from the 2019 share of 2.7%, which is apparently already the largest under the Duterte administration. Including the budget for agrarian reform, the annual average allocation in 2017-2020 is only 3.6% of the national budget, the lowest in 21 years. This still got smaller at 3.2% in 2021.

The country’s rice self-sufficiency ratio has significantly gone down from 93.4% in 2017 to only 79.8% by 2019. Such increased import dependence is not even justified anymore by the goal of curbing inflation nor by inadequate supply. It is but a formed habit from chronically neglecting domestic production. To illustrate, despite the hyped increase in production volume in 2020 and even at harvest time, the Duterte government approved the importation of 300,000 MT. The pandemic has apparently prompted exporters such as Vietnam and Thailand to prioritize their domestic consumption, triggering already ingrained insecurity among importers such as the Philippines.

Also totally negating the inflation argument now is the fact that Vietnam and China have already started buying rice from India due to increased local prices. This could precipitate another fast rice inflation in the narrow global market, on which the Philippines has unduly relied at the expense of its own direct producers.

This brings us back to the bigger picture – that the farmers’ struggle for the reversal of rice liberalization and for more responsible state intervention is not just about themselves but the more meaningful future of food security and national development. #

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(A contribution to the virtual forum “Rice Tariffication Law: Two Years After” sponsored by the College of Economic Management, University of the Philippines Los Baños, 22 June 2021)

6 farmers arrested in Bulacan

Six of the 14 Norzagaray, Bulacan farmers charged with theft for harvesting their own crops have been arrested by the police Monday night, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

In an alert, the farmers’ group said Salvacion Abonilla, John Jason Abonilla, Jenny Capa, Marilyn Olpos, Catherine Magdato, and Eden Gualberto were taken to the police station in Norzagaray at past seven o’clock in the evening last January 18.

All are members of the Samahang Magsasaka ng San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) and are residents of Sitio Compra, Barangay San Mateo.

The farmers were charged with theft after Royal Mollucan Realty Holdings Inc. (RMRHI) guards alleged they chanced on the six and eight others harvesting coconuts and bananas inside a 75.5-hectare disputed property.

The farmers said it could not have been theft if they were harvesting the crops they themselves planted on a property that their elders have tilled when the area was still wilderness.

The KMP denounced the arrests as harassment of the farmers who have a more legitimate claim to the land than the realty company.

It also denounced the Philippine National Police for “abetting a landgrabber” and for violating a court of Appeals decision ordering the Office of the President to award the land to agrarian reform program beneficiaries.

The disputed property had been placed in a Notice of Coverage as well as Compulsory Acquisition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

“Since the 1950s, peasant families lived and tilled the agricultural lands located in Sitio Compra, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan. Around 50 families cultivate the 75-hectare land planted with rice, corn, varieties of vegetables, and other crops,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ ancestors were tenants who paid land rent to the family of former landowner Roman Aquino, the group added.

The KMP revealed that the arrested women farmers were forced to leave their young children unattended at their homes as their husbands are all away for work.

The group also recalled that in February and October 2019, Royal Mollucan demolished a total of 38 houses within the farmers’ community, forcing farmers to leave their farms and look for livelihood outside the fenced agricultural land.

The KMP said the arrested farmers have no money to pay for bail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Randall Echanis: Funny guy who was serious at the negotiating table

The many facets of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randall Echanis surfaced in the various tributes paid him since his gruesome murder a week ago today. Incongruous with his brutal death, the tributes pictured a tender and humorous person not beyond cracking jokes at this own expense or finding himself in funny situations. He was also a writer of some of the revolutionary Left’s most beloved poems and songs, even indulging comrades with the occasional singing and performances.

Detained three times and heavily tortured by three regimes in the past five decades, a stranger would be forgiven to assume that “Ka Randy” was a humorless person. But he definitely was not.

“Randall had a refreshing wry humor and was funny even without trying,” NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia wrote on his first tribute to his long-time colleague in the peace negotiations with various administrations. Olalia recalled an episode in 2011 that Randall had to hold it long enough at the Utrecht train station because he had no Euro coins to pay to use the Wash Closet.

“I fondly recall how ‘brothers’ Fidel (Agcaoili, recently departed NDFP chief negotiator) and Randall engaged in unceasing juvenile banter and comradely taunts during idle moments or breaks in intense negotiations and serious consultations,” Olalia said. “And we had our own naughty private jokes and codes. And he can be gullible and childlike I tell you. But he is sharp and firm as could be. Simpleng tao pero matalim magsuri,” he added. (A simple person but sharp in his analysis.)

Ka Randy’s funny episodes continued up to the last formal talks he attended in Europe, this time with the Rodrigo Duterte government in January 2017.

Lawyer Kristina Conti recalled: “Isang araw, may break sa pagitan ng mga miting at dinner. May mga naka-tropa ako, nag-aya gumala, para ma-refresh daw ang utak. Kasi may miting ulit sa gabi. Nagkayayaan tingnan yung sunset, ‘dun sa may beach. Para makarating ‘dun kelangan dumaan sa isang hotel. ‘Sosyal naman dito,’ sabi ni Ka Randall. ‘Mag-picture muna tayo. Hehehe.’ Hala sila, sige pose-pose, ganda nga naman ng lighting. ‘Tapos batsi na, di tayo bagay dito,’ he said” Conti wrote.

Ka Randy having his photo taken at a hotel lobby during a break in the peace negotiations (Photo from Atty Kristina Conti)

[“One day, during a break between meetings and dinner, my companions proposed a walk to freshen their tired minds. There would be more meetings that night. The wanted to watch the sunset at the nearby beach. Along the way was a hotel. ‘It looks expensive here,’ Ka Randall said. ‘Let us have our pictures taken.’ Then he posed, and the lighting was good. ‘It’s time to leave. We don’t belong here,’ he said.”]

Ka Randy earned some ribbing from his colleagues one time when someone used a lighter hair dye on the silver-haired negotiator. “Kapag may chance iyan siya, nagpapa-tina ng buhok kasi marami na siyang puting buhok. Minsan, bago mag peace talks, nagpakulay siya ng buhok. Kulay brown ang lumabas,” Maureen Hermitanio recalled.

[If he had the chance, he had his hair dyed, as he has lots of white hair already. One time, it turned out brown.]

Echanis seemed to be a different person on the negotiating table, however, his NDFP Reciprocal Working Group on Social and Economic Reforms colleagues said. “Ka Randy was a funny guy, cracking jokes with poker face, which made his jokes even funnier. But he never joked around the formal negotiations, even if we knew it could have thawed some tensions. When asked why he was so serious at the peace table, he would simply say that peasants have sacrificed even their lives for the attainment of genuine agrarian reform. ‘It’s not a joke,’ he said,” Rosabella Guzman, resource person to the peace negotiations, wrote.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said Echanis played a key role in the drafting of documents on agrarian reform and rural development, one that will be a basis of a future Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Reforms between the Left and the government. “He was outstanding as an advocate of genuine land reform, rural development and national industrialization. He was the National Chairperson of the Anakpawis Party List and Deputy Secretary General of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and was a leading consultant of the NDFP on agrarian reform and member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison wrote.

Poet, songwriter

Not much known to younger activists was the fact the Echanis was himself a poet and songwriter.

During his third imprisonment under the Gloria Arroyo regime, Echanis wrote the poem “Hindi Ko Kayo Titigilan” inside the Manila City in December 2008. He was released in 2010 and have since participated in the first and only formal talks with the Benigno Aquino administration in January 2011.

He also participated in formal negotiations in Europe and in the Philippines between 2016 and 2018.

In one of the tributes to Echanis, cultural worker Edgie Uyanguren rendered the song “Sa Paglayo Ay May Paglalapit Din,” a song co-wrote by Echanis with Ramon Ayco. Written in Cagayan Valley in 1979, the song was beloved by revolutionaries and activists alike.

In a gathering after the first formal talks between the NDFP and the Duterte government in 2016, Echanis performed an Ilokano revolutionary songs with fellow peace consultants from Northern Philippines, Kennedy Bangibang and Randy Malayao. Malayao himself was assassinated in January 2019.

Randall Echanis singing with fellow NDFP peace consultants from Northern Luzon.

‘Positive, calm and objective’

Echanis is most intimately remembered by younger agrarian reform activists as a positive and objective leader, a calming presence in the face of adversity.

Amihan Euza Mabalay recalled that Ka Randy was always encouraging to them as student land reform activists. “Laging constructive ang mga komento niya. Kahit ang UP Manila ang pinaka kaunting bilang ng miyembro, hindi ako napanghinaan ng loob nilang chair ng chapter dahil sa mga salita niya,” she wrote upon learning of Echanis’ death. Mabalay was National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth) University of the Philippines-Manila Chapter chairperson in her student days.

[His comments were always constructive. Even if the UP Manila chapter had the least number of members, I was never discouraged as chapter leader because of his encouraging words.]

She recalled further a t-shirt printing project they did in her senior year. “’Ang ganda! Pulang-pula ano, Amihan?’” Hindi naman sobrang ganda ng t-shirt na ‘yun pero ramdam namin na may pumuri sa pinagpaguran namin, hindi lang sa t-shirt kundi sa pag-oorganisa sa mga kapwa namin estudyante para sa buong taon o higit pa. Ilang beses nya din yun inulit-ulit kapag nagkikita kami habang nasa NRY pa ako,” she said.

[‘It’s beautiful! It’s very red, right Amihan?’ The t-shirt was not exceptional, in fact. But I felt that someone appreciated our efforts, not just in the production of the shirts but in our organizing of fellow students that entire year and beyond. He repeated the compliment when we saw each other while I was still with NNARA-Youth.]

Mabalay said Echanis was always appreciative of every initiative, effort and sacrifice, both to students and veteran activists like himself. He was never one to let anger get the better of him, even during heated discussions. She added that she liked when Echanis was present in meetings as the good points were duly appreciated and weaknesses were pointed out.

“He gave everyone a chance, based on the principles of serving the people. That’s why I called him Tatang (father),” she said in Filipino.

Echanis was buried at noontime today at the Loyola Memorial Gardens in Marikina City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Land rights activists confront Irene Marcos-Araneta

Land rights activists Angelo Suarez and Donna Miranda chanced upon Irene Marcos-Araneta at a Sunday market in Quezon City last September 15 and confronted the late dictator’s daughter.

Suarez and Miranda said it is ironic that Marcos-Araneta is buying vegetables when the Araneta family is grabbing land from vegetable farmers in San Juan del Monte City, Bulacan.

The couple also pointed out that the Marcos family has yet to apologize to the victims of the late dictator Ferdinand’s martial law, including Suarez’s father, a journalist. (Video by Raymund Villanueva/Kodao)

‘October Resistance’: Farmers protest human rights violations

Hundreds of farmers and activists commemorate Peasant Month with a series of activities they call ‘October Resistance,’ in obvious reference to the so-called Red October plot the military tried selling off as a plan oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), a rally was held from University of Santo Tomas to Mendiola last Friday to call for an end to poverty, hunger as well “state fascism” by the Duterte government.

Protest actions were also launched in Tuguegarao City, Tagbilaran City, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Bukidnon, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro.

The farmers said they demand genuine land reform, free land distribution and the pull-out of military troops from communities.

They also want to end land-grabbing and land use conversion schemes as well as a stop to plantations all over the country.

KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos said that the ‘Red October’ plot scare of the government aims to justify human rights violations and intensify crackdown against peasant activists and organizers.

The group decried the recent human rights violations perpetrated by state forces. Among these is the killing of Jaime Delos Santos, chairman of the fisherfolk PAMALAKAYA (affiliated member of KMP) in Guihulngan Negros Oriental last October 6, as well as the killing of Victor Villafranca, also member of PAMALAKAYA’s HABAGAT or Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat in Lian Batangas, last October 13.

They also assailed the violent dispersal of their camp out at the Department of Agrarian Reform last Thursday. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas with Maricon Montajes)

 

‘October Resistance’ isasagawa ng mga magsasaka

Isang press conference noong Oktubre 8 ang isinagawa nang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas o KMP at mga kaanib na organisasyon nito upang i-anunsyo ang kanilang pagkilos na tinaguriang “October Resistance against poverty, hunger and state fascism.”

Bilang bahagi ng buwan ng mga magsasaka ngayong Oktubre, iba’t-ibang aktibidad ang kanilang isasagawa bitbit ang panawagang tunay na reporma sa lupa, libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka, pagkontrol sa mga presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilhin gayundin ang pagtigil sa militarisasyon at paglabag sa karapatang tao sa kanayunan.

Ayon naman sa Amihan (Pambansang Pederasyon ng mga Kababaihang Magsasaka), lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at kababaihang magbubukid. Imbes na ibigay sa mga magsasaka ang lupain, inilaan pa ito sa ekspansyon ng mga plantasyon, malawakang pagmimina at land use conversion ang iba sa mga malaking kumpanya at panginoong maylupa.

Giit pa ng Amihan, walang plano si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura at pamimigay ng lupa sa mga magsasaka.

Mariin naman nilang binatikos ang pakanang ‘Red October’ ng gubyernong Duterte at Armed Forces of the Philippines at sinabing layunin lamang nito na takutin at pahupain ang tumitinding galit ng sambayanan dahil sa walang-awat na taas presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo dulot ng Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law o TRAIN Law.

Binigyan nila ng halimbawa ang patuloy na pampulitikang panunupil at “red tagging” sa mga organisasyon at aktibista.

Patuloy din ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga lider magsasaka kabilang na ang tagapangulo ng KMP sa Northern Mindanao na si Ereneo Ubarde at 33 iba pang lider sa rehiyon, gayundin ang pag-aresto kay Gerry Basahon, lider ng Misamis Oriental Farmers Association na kaanib ng KMP noong Oktubre 4, ani ng mga grupo.

Kinundena din nila ang pinakahuling kaso nang pamamaslang noong Oktubre 6 sa tagapangulo ng PAMALAKAYA sa Negros Oriental na si Jaime Delos Santos.

Dagdag pa ng KMP, kapag patuloy na tumindi ang atake nang rehimen tiyak na tatapatan ito ng paglaban nang taumbayan. Nakatakda ang kanilang malakihang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka sa Oktubre 19 sa ibat-ibang panig ng bansa. # (Bidyo at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas/Larawan ni Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

Farmers call for genuine land distribution on CARP’s 30th anniversary

Sa ika-tatlumpung anibersaryo ng Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), nagmartsa ang mga magsasaka at iba pang anakpawis, sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, patungong Mendiola.

Ipananawagan ng KMP ang tunay na pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka at kinondena naman ang kabiguan ng CARP na  lutasin ang kawalan ng lupa ng nakararaming magsasaka sa bansa.

Dagdag pa rito ay ang pagpapataw ng mga gawa-gawang kaso at pang-aalipusta sa mga magsasaka at mga manggagawa sa kanayunan, ayon sa KMP.

LakbayMagsasaka reaches Mendiola; peasants vow to ‘occupy’ more land

Thousands of farmers from all over the country marched to Mendiola today at the culmination of their month-long Lakbay Magsasaka national peasant caravan and vowing to defeat the Rodrigo Duterte government’s “fascism”.

About 5,000 farmers, many of whom earlier joined the Lakbayan ng Visayas ang Lakbay Paraoma in Bicol arrived at the National Capital Region Monday to demand genuine land reform and an end to the killings of peasants.

“Today, the Filipino peasant masses vow to further our struggle for genuine land reform through more vigorous land occupation and collective cultivation. Our campaign to dismantle land monopoly, haciendas and plantations will continue and expand on a nationwide scale,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Antonio Flores said.

The nationwide peasant caravans culminate today in a major mobilization at Mendiola, delivering a strong message to President Duterte against the government’s fascism.

“To the madman in Malacanang, we tell you this: you will never win against the Filipino people. The wars that you launched against us–Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao—will all fail. Your regime will soon be exposed as one that is fragile, unstable and easy to overthrow,” Flores said.

KMP said 91 farmer leaders and members of peasant organizations have been summarily killed under the 15-month old Duterte government.

“The ultimate sacrifice of the 91 farmers and land reform advocates who were killed in the name of their struggle for land will not be in vain. We demand justice for all the victims of peasant political killings and extrajudicial killings,” Flores said.

The KMP said its collective cultivation campaign has already covered of thousands of hectares outside of the government’s land reform program, noting farmers are already tilling Lupang Kapdula, Lupang Ramos, Hacienda Roxas, Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Peralta, Hacienda Larrazabal, Hacienda Manubay, Hacienda Uy, Hacienda Dolores, Hacienda Gancayco, Hacienda Yulo and other medium to big landholdings across the country.

“We enjoin all landless farmers and farm workers to occupy and till abandoned lands and properties. A DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform)-sponsored land reform would never work for us. We must assert our own genuine agrarian reform program,” Flores said.

“We will continue to assert genuine land reform, one hectare at a time. We will persevere in our land cultivation activities to achieve a self-sustaining agricultural production that will lay the foundations for genuine rural development,” he added.

Duterte effigy “Dut-in-Boot” being rolled to Mendiola to be burned by participants of Lakbay Magsasaka. (Photo by Kathy Yamzon)

KMP said organized peasants will defeat Duterte’s tyranny through their collective struggle for genuine land reform and resistance to militarization and state-sponsored political killings.

Farmers and peasant leaders from Central Luzon, Cordillera, Southern Luzon, Central and Eastern Visays, Negros, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Western Mindanao participated in the Lakbayan who will lead in the burning of another Duterte’s effigy called “Duts-In-Boot.”

KMP said similar protest actions are taking place in the cities of Iloilo, Tandag, Butuan, Surigao, Davao, Bacolod, Tuguegarao and Cebu. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)  

PNP blocks Bicol farmers’ caravan

Hundreds of farmer-activists from Bicol complained of harassment when members of the Quezon Province police blocked their caravan on its way to Manila Sunday night.

The Provincial Public Safety Company-6th Maneuver Platoon of the Philippine National Police (PNP) blocked Lakbay Paraoma’s 28 buses, a jeep and a van at around 7:30 last night led by a certain Major Morillo in Barangay Talipan, Pagbilao in Quezon province.

Lakbay Paraoma is the Bicol Region contingent of the ongoing nationwide Lakbay Magsasaka to Metro Manila for a series of events demanding genuine agrarian reform.

In the convoy was the vehicle of Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao who joined the peasant caravan from Bicol to Manila.

The PNP issued traffic violation tickets against the 28 caravan bus drivers who they alleged were not wearing seatbelts.

Two bus drivers signed the tickets and were fined PhP5,000 each while the others refused, saying they were wearing seatbelts.

Bus driver Dude Villareal admitted he was not wearing a seatbelt but insisted it was harassment to derail the caravan.

“We will continue to fight for the rights of the farmers. The PNP will always find ways, such as issuing bogus violations to silence the protesters,” Bert Author, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB-KMP), said.

While negotiations were ongoing, caravan participants cooked dinner and threatened to stage an impromptu rally should the PNP refused to let them through.

The PNP subsequently revoked the traffic violation citations, saying it was a mere misunderstanding, alternative media outfit Baretang Bikolnon reported.

The caravan arrived at Calamba, Laguna past midnight where they spent the rest of the night.

They will join the farmers from Mindanao at the protest camp-out at the Department of Agrarian Reform before their major protest rally at Mendiola on October 25. (Raymund B. Villanueva/With reports from and photo by Baretang Bikolnon)

Duterte has no one to blame but himself on rating fall, groups say

President Rodrigo Duterte has no one else to blame but himself on his recent Social Weather Station (SWS) approval rating slide, a farmers’ group and a human rights organization said.

Saying the big decrease in Duterte’s trust rating is a reflection of his political isolation from the masses, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) added the latest SWS survey further exposes the President as an enemy of the people.

“There is no genuine land reform [under Duterte]. Land monopoly persists and vast tracts of lands remain in the control of a few landed families. Agricultural lands are being converted, further threatening our food security. Tens of thousands of hectares of lands are devoted to foreign-owned plantations. Estimates peg that more than seven in every 10 farmers nationwide have no land to till,” the KMP said.

Human rights organization Karapatan for its part said the people are starting to see through “Duterte’s lies.”

“The Filipino people see through the government’s lies, fake news, deception and repression, as evidenced by the unrelenting campaigns and struggles for justice of victims of State-sponsored violence, that even recent surveys have to reflect the people’s sentiments,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Though surveys are not the end-all, be-all of political opinion, it runs consistent with swelling protests and clamor for an end to [Duterte’s] repressive and fascist policies,” Karapatan added.

In a survey conducted last September 23 to 27, the SWS said Duterte’s gross satisfaction rating fell by 11 per cent from 78 to 67 percent.

Compared with SWS’s June 2017 survey, gross satisfaction with Pres. Duterte fell by 11 points from 78 per cent, gross undecided rose by four points from 10 per cent, and gross dissatisfaction rose by 7 points from 12 per cent, the SWS report said.

This gives a net satisfaction rating of plus 48 (percentage of satisfied minus the percentage of dissatisfied), SWS added classifying the latest rating as “good” from the previous “very good.”

“Whatever popular support he garnered during the 2016 presidential elections would swiftly fade as more and more sectors become disillusioned with his false promises of change,” the KMP said.

Karapatan said no amount of lies can cover up the growing dissatisfaction with Duterte.

“The mad scramble of Duterte’s sycophants to spread lies in international platforms on the non-existence of extrajudicial killings in the country, the recent launch of a group that is posing as a new paramilitary force in defense of the Duterte regime, and the unrelenting moves to suppress civil liberties and exercise of people’s rights are all desperate attempts by Duterte to project acceptability of its anti-people programs and to quell opposition to his fascist regime,” Karapatan said.

Karapatan added “government officials like Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, and the Philippine National Police are on defensive mode, employing the most laughable excuses, semantics and word plays denying the existence and prevalence of EJKs.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)