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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)

End war with social and economic reforms, Duterte urged

A National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiator urged President Rodrigo Duterte to resume formal peace negotiations if he wants to end civil war in the country.

In an interview, NDFP consultant Allan Jazmines said revolutionary groups would not agree to an open-ended bilateral ceasefire with the Duterte government unless it signs agreements on substantial reforms to benefit the Filipino people.

“If the peace talks resume and would be accelerated, it would end the civil war faster. Peace would happen after social and economic as well as political and constitutional reforms are signed and implemented,” Jazmines said.

Jazmines added that Duterte would only cause more trouble on his administrations if he pushes through with his threat to go after the New People’s Army (NPA) after the Marawi crisis is over.

“He is talking nonsense. The NPA is stronger, the revolution is stronger,” Jazmines said.

Duterte cancelled the fifth round of formal negotiations with the NDFP in The Netherlands last May after failing to force the Left into an open-ended bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Jazmines said NDFP and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiators were very close to signing Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) agreements before the cancellation.

The veteran negotiator said the GRP has already committed to distributing one million hectares over five years for free, which would include both public lands and property under private ownership.

“The parties are very close to inking the ARRD under the social and economic reforms agenda of the negotiations. For the first time, our farmers have hope. The details have already been threshed out. Duterte would be wasting all the hard work if he does not go back to the negotiating table,” Jazmines said.

Jazmines said such gains from the peace talks show the sincerity of the revolutionary forces in the negotiations.

The NPA would not fall into the trap of extended ceasefires without substantial reforms, he added.

“If the NPA and other revolutionary forces surrender or capitulate as Duterte wants, then goodbye to reforms the Filipino people demand.  That is why we will never do it,” Jazmines said.

“Duterte should not allow himself to be influenced by the enemies of genuine social reforms. The military and the United States of America are pressuring him to choose war over the peace talks,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Agrarian reform deal ready for NDFP-GRP approval

A common draft on agrarian reform is ready for approval by The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) after three days of bilateral discussions by the parties’ reciprocal working committees on socio-economic reforms over the weekend.

NDFP peace consultant Allan Jazmines told a peace forum yesterday the parties met from Saturday to Monday to finalize a common draft on agrarian reform for approval by the parties when formal peace negotiations resume next month.

“The GRP committee responded positively to the NDFP committee’s draft and both worked on enhancing and polishing the document,” Jazmines said.

“When formal talks resume sometime next month, it should be ready for initializing by the NDFP and GRP panels,” he added.

Jazmines said that since agrarian reform is only a part of the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, the document would only be “initialled” by the parties.

The NDFP and GRP announced their agreement to free land distribution to farmers during their third round of formal talks in Rome, Italy last January.

“Once initialled, the parties may already start implementing agrarian reform programs, such as the legislation of a genuine agrarian reform law by the GRP,” he added.

The working committees are now ready to move on to the rural development, national industrialization and economic development, social services and environmental protection agenda, Jazmines said.

“It may even be proposed that another meeting by the working committees should be held later this month,” he said.

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III did not make it to the forum after failing to get an early flight from Mindanao.

Bello attended an emergency meeting in Davao City Monday night, the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum, organizers of the event, said.

5th round in Oslo

Jazmines said the fifth round of formal negotiations may be held from mid-August.

“There are no exact dates yet. We will know after panel members from both sides would meet later this month to finalize the details with the Royal Norwegian Government,” he said.

Jazmines said the next round would focus on the other items in the social and economic reforms agenda, as well as constitutional and political reforms.

“The parties are also expected to thresh out issues that led to the temporary suspension of formal negotiations,” he added.

Jazmines said the GRP may again propose the inclusion of ceasefire declarations in the agenda.

The NDFP for its part may also propose discussions on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in relation to reported plans by GRP President Rodrigo Duterte to extend his martial law declaration in Mindanao to the end of the year, Jazmines said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photo from Ruben Manahan III’s Facebook page)

 

 

 

Lapanday guards threaten MARBAI farmers anew

Farmers recently installed by the Duterte Government in their agrarian reform-awarded lands are threatened anew by armed Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) security guards, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reported.

Two days after the Duterte government gave back 145 hectares of land to 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City last May 18, armed LFC guards reoccupied foxholes, trenches and guard posts along the perimeter fence they abandoned during the farmers’ installation.

DAR said farmer-beneficiaries have expressed alarm over their security with fears of being ejected again from their government-awarded lands.

The Philippine National Police in Tagum City have withdrawn from the MARBAI farms that allowed LFC guards to reposition themselves along the perimeter fence.

WATCH this DAR-released video. Read more

Mariano accuses Lapanday of mocking Duterte

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Rafael Mariano denied he committed graft and corruption when he personally led the installation of 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries last May 18 in Tagum City.

In a press conference, Mariano said all agrarian reform disputes are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DAR and only the Supreme Court may restrain the agency from implementing its decisions.

Instead, Mariano said Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) mocks the Duterte government’s call for change by using the courts to thwart the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

“President Duterte has time and time again warned against the ‘use of courts’ to block the mandate of land reform, which is to distribute land to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Mariano said.

“We are just following the president’s directives,” he added.

Harassment

Mariano said the criminal and administrative complaint filed by LFC counsel Noel Oliver Punzalan “is a move by the LFC to harass officials of the DAR.”

Punzalan filed the graft and corruption charge against Mariano and DAR undersecretary for legal affairs Luis Meinrado Pangulayan before the Office of the Ombudsman for “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) on the day the farmers were formally installed in the property last May 18.

Punzalan sought a preventive suspension against Mariano and Pangulayan “due to the seriousness and depravity of the acts they committed.”

Punzalan also alleged that Mariano’s successive Cease and Desist Order (CDO), Writ of Installation and Break Open Order from December last year to this month violated a Writ of Execution by the Regional Trial Court of Davao City.

“Mariano’s CDO disregarded the fact that LFC’s possesion and management of the area is by virtue of a prior and final and executory order issued by the RTC of Davao City,” Punzalan said.

The embattled secretary however countered, saying “Lapanday’s contract is not binding to MARBAI as it was executed with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 which already ceded the disputed portion of the banana plantation to MARBAI farmers.

He said he also served the writ of installation after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to proceed with the installation during his visit at the MARBAI farmers’ protest camp in Mendiola.

Pangulayan for his part said the DAR just executed its quasi-judicial powers and gave no undue benefit to MARBAI farmers.

DAR said Republic Act 6657 (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) gives DAR the sole authority to determine if a case in Court is an agrarian in nature.

“This is the reason why all Courts are required by Section 50-A of RA 6657, as amended, to automatically refer all such cases to DAR,” it said.

He also denied that the agency committed gross negligence and bad faith in installing the farmers.

“The charges are just selfish corporate interest manifesting itself,” Pangulayan said.

“We will reply to the charges when required by the Office of the Ombudsman,” he added.

Lapanday is liable

Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao for his part said LFC should in fact be grateful to Mariano who gave the agri-business corporation more leeway than it deserved, more so in light of its continuing violence against the farmers.

“DAR could have filed contempt charges against the company for refusing to comply with the agency’s lawful orders,” Casilao said.

The charges against Secretary Mariano and Undersecretary Pangulayan are “weak, baseless and should pave the wave for disbarment complaints against Punzalan for ignorance of the law,” he said.

“We call on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to be impartial, as (another Lapanday counsel) Mans Carpio is her nephew as we also condemn LFC’s continuing harassment of the farmers,” Casilao said.

Casilao said Philippine National Police personnel in Tagum City have noticed 100 LFC guards near the MARBAI property a day after Mariano installed the farmers.

DAR also said that armed LFC security guards have positioned themselves near the MARBAI farmers’ campout with military amphibian vehicles stationed within the 70-meter radius.

The farmer-beneficiaries have expressed alarm over their security with fears of being ejected again from their government-awarded lands.

Progressive murals

Meanwhile, Mariano and the DAR received support from other government officials who attended the agency’s flag-raising ceremony and installation of murals at the DAR Central Office lobby.

Murals on agrarian reform, national industrialization, social justice, self determination and other social issues by progressive artists have been installed along the main stairwell of the main DAR building in Quezon City.

Department of Social Work and Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo as well leaders of progressive groups, farmers and peasant organizations attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.# ( Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Progressive murals at the DAR lobby. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

 

Lapanday farmers hold solidarity night

Farmer-beneficiaries held a solidarity event last May 12 on the last night of their camp out on Mendiola Bridge in Manila that started on International Labor Day.

The farmers said their protest action was successful as evidenced by the unprecedented dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte who assured them they will be installed in their farms in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

The Department of Agrarian Reform tried to install the farmers but were were prevented twice by armed guards of Lapanday Foods Corporation and the refusal of the local police to provide assistance. Read more

Wilma Tiamzon explains the agreement on interim joint ceasefire

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands–The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) signed the Agreement on an Interim Joint Ceasefire yesterday after four days of intense formal and informal negotiations.

The parties said the document aims to encourage the forging of a more stable and more comprehensive joint ceasefire agreement and to provide a more enabling environment for the earlier signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

They said the interim joint ceasefire shall be signed simultaneous to, or immediately after, the signing of the CASER, which is expected to be finished within the year and after ground rules and guidelines are forged by their respective ceasefire committees.

The prospective ceasefire’s guidelines and ground rules shall govern the presence of armed units and elements of both parties in local communities and the creation of buffer zones.

The ground rules would also include agreements on what constitutes prohibited, hostile and provocative acts by armed groups of either party.

The guidelines shall also allow for a ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism to oversee the prospective ceasefire’s implementation and to handle complaints of violations.

Watch NDFP’s ceasefire committee head Wilma Austria Tiamzon explain the agreement on interim joint ceasefire as well as the advancement on CASER negotiations. # (Interview and video by Jola Diones-Mamangun / Text by Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured photo by Nwel Saturay)