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Bulacan LGU destroys crops and trees

A local government unit destroyed a 2.7-hectare farmland planted with vegetables and mature fruit-bearing trees last January 16 in Bulacan province, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported.

Hundreds of crop-bearing trees were destroyed and flattened by members of the San Jose Del Monte City Public Order and Safety Office (SJDM-POSO) last Saturday, reportedly upon the instructions of a relative of Mayor Arthur Robes.  

The relative was identified as a certain Obet Robes.

The farmland tilled by the Ajose family in Sitio Dalandanan, Barangay Tungkong Mangga in the said city was bulldozed, destroying crops including banana trees, pineapples, root crops, and eggplants, the KMP said.

According to the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Dalandanan (SAMAGDA), a local affiliate of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan-KMP, the SJDM City Hall POSO employees went to the farmland presenting a canceled Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and insisted that the farmers vacate the land.

SJDM City Hall POSO employees at the Ajose home asking the family to vacate the land. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The Ajose family said the POSO employees did not present a writ of execution or a court order for the bulldozing of their farmland, the farmers’ group said.

The destruction of the crops was said to be permitted by Mayor Arthur Robes, invoking his rights as the Mayor based on RA 8797 that converted SJDM as a component city, the group added.

Jhulian Ajose, whose parents started tilling the parcel of land in the 1990s, lamented the destruction of their crops.

“Bakit niyo kami pinaalis sa tinataniman naming lupa? Dito lang kami kumukuha ng kinabubuhay at pagkain namin, ng pang-paaral. Sa lupa na ito, dito kami umaasa. Ektaryang pananim ang sinira nyo!,” Ajose said. (Why are you driving us away from the land we are tilling. This is our source of livelihood, food and education expenses. We rely on this land. You have destroyed hectares of crops!)

“Hindi ninyo alam kung gaano ang hirap ng mga magulang namin. Sa bawat pagpapagal, sa bawat patak ng dugo at pawis, sa bawat sugat na tinatamo sa pagbubungkal at pagtatanim sa lupa na ito. Wala kayong awa sa mga katulad namin,” he added. (You have no idea of the hardships our parents have undergone, their efforts, their every drop of blood and sweat, their every injury for tilling this land. You have no pity for the likes of us.)

A San Jose del Monte City backhoe destroying banana crops at the Ajose farm. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The KMP said that the farmers of Barangay Tungkong Mangga, one of the few remaining agricultural villages in SJDM, had been suffering development aggression and intensifised landgrabbing since the MRT-7 depot and train station projects started.

“Land grabbing and land-use conversion are prevalent in SJDM, among the prime targets of land developers and real estate corporations such as the Villar family-owned Vista Land and Landscapes Inc. The city is being developed by the local government as a ‘New Super City’ and Metro Manila’s gateway to Central Luzon,” the KMP said.

More than a thousand farming families are threatened once the MRT-7 project is completed, wiping out 588 hectares of agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMP reports more attacks against farmers in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog

Farmers’ homes  were demolished in Orion, Bataan by a combined forced of about 200 police officers and a 100-member demolition team in Sitio Bangad, Orion, Bataan last Thursday, January 14, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported.

The KMP said former Government Service Insurance Corporation president Federico Pascual ordered the demolition of houses owned by 42 families to give way to a lucrative residential project with Sta. Lucia Realty.

Police officers in full battle gear assist Federico Pascual’s demolition team. (KMP photo)

Police officers in full battle gear assisted the demolition team, KMP-supplied photos show.

“The ongoing demolition is the latest in a series of displacement of farmers and residents in the area. In February 2020, the collective resistance of farmers has succeeded in preventing the attempts of Pascual’s men to demolish and displace the farmers and their families,” the KMP said.

Last March 23, 2020, at the height of the coronavirus lockdown and quarantine in Luzon, Pascual ordered the fencing of the disputed land and displaced the farmers from the 33-hectare landholding, KMP said.

The farmer-families said they have been tilling the land with palay, vegetables, and fruit-bearing trees for over two decades as part of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Zaldy Montemayor, leader of local farmers group Samahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Sitio Bangad, said Pascual had been manoeuvring to have the farmers exempted from CARP but the businessperson could not present proper documents issued by the Land Registration Authority.

A farmers’ house completely destroyed by Federico Pascual’s demolition team. (KMP photo)

Aside from being a former GSIS president, Pascual is also the President of the Bataan Peninsula State University, a member of the Bureau of Customs Governing Council, chairperson of the San Antonio Resources Inc, and a shareholder Sinagtala Farm Resort and Retreat Park located in Bataan.

Pascual also owns shares in several other companies, and formerly held corporate leadership posts at the Philippine National Bank, Allied Banking Corp., and Alabang Country Club as well as a director of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

The KMP said Pascual is using his wealth and influence in his actions against the farmers of Sitio Bangad.

The group said the Bataan incident followed the destruction of houses and attacks on farmers at Hacienda Yulo in Calamba City.

Terror at Hacienda Yulo

In Laguna, armed guns and goons of the Yulo-owned San Cristobal Realty demolished two houses while they trained high-powered guns on terrified residents, the KMP reported

Last January 9, the group said goons also attacked a certain Jojo De Leon while ransacking and destroying several houses.

The perpetrators also fired their guns that injured four farmers, the group added.  

The Hacienda Yulo incidents were the latest in an ongoing harassment campaign against the farmers that started in July 2020, the KMP said.

“These include the fencing off of farm lots, destruction of crops and burning of houses of the farmers,” KMP said.

WATCH: Terror at Hacienda Yulo

As in Bataan, the Yulo family is trying to drive away farmers to pave the way for a deal between San Cristobal Realty and Ayala Land, Inc., the group said.

“The farmers had been tilling the land since 1911. It was them who developed the land and they have all the right to continue farming and living in it,” KMP added.

Yesterday, KMP also reported that farmers in Norzagaray, Bulacan were charged with theft for harvesting their own coconut and banana crops by another private company, Royal Mollucan Realty Holding Inc.

READ: Farmers charged with theft for harvesting their own crops

“Just how heartless the land grabbing families of Villar, Yulo, Ayala, Pascuals, can be? A pandemic, widespread joblessness and bankruptcy, and successive typhoons have already ravaged the lives of poor farmers, and yet these landed haciendero-oligarchs continue to violently eject our food security frontliners,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers vow to fight ChaCha, 100% land ownership by foreigners

A farmers’ group said it will oppose efforts at the House of Representatives to tinker with the Constitution, saying charter change (ChaCha) will only benefit President Rodrigo Duterte as well as foreign powers and local political warlords.

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the proposed 100% ownership of land by foreigners will worsen landlessness, poverty, and hunger among the majority of the Filipino population.

““The revived Charter change proposals will only make worse the current Constitution and will aggravate the situation of Filipinos now reeling from the effects and heavy burden of the pandemic and economic recession,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

“ChaCha will also further bastardize the existing system of governance dominated by landlords and oligarchs,” Ramos added.

KMP is among the various groups that trooped to the HOR this morning as theHouse Committee on Constitutional Amendments is conducting a hearing on proposed revisions to the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. 

The bill wanting to amend the Constitution was filed by House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco he said is aimed at removing the remaining protectionist economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

Other proponents of the change, such as Ako Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr., said the protections in the charter make it difficult for the government to create more jobs and improve the economy, more so that it has been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The KMP however said the move aims to further open the local economy to the plundering of land grabbers and large foreign corporations.

“The economic and political repercussions of ChaCha will be irreversible. Filipinos must fight ChaCha attempts to the end,” KMP said.

The farmers added it is like handing the entire Philippines on a silver platter for foreign businesses to devour.

“We cannot allow foreign businesses to take over our land, natural resources, media, and strategic industries. We cannot be second-class citizens in our own country. With ChaCha, everything else will worsen for Filipinos,” the group explained.

KMP warned that multinational agricorporations such as Del Monte, DoleFil, Sumifru and other large plantations, as well as foreign mining companies, will further expand at the expense of farmers and indigenous peoples.

President Duterte also earlier said he wants changes in the Constitution to remove the Party List system and punish Leftist parties that have consistently won seats in Congress.

“All democracy and freedom-loving Filipinos must [therefore] resist Charter Change and Duterte’s tyranny,” the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another farmer killed in Bohol as 9 Tumandok are massacred in Panay

Another peasant activist in Bohol Province was killed just as nine Tumandok  civilians in Panay Island were being massacred last Wednesday in one of the bloodiest day for farmers under the four-year old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña of Barangay Bantolinao, Antequera town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle riding men around 9:00 AM last December 30 at Barangay Dorol, Balilihan town in Bohol, peasant organization Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP) said.

Paña was on his way to bring lunch for his son working at a nearby construction site when fired upon by unidentified perpetrators.

Paña was a former officer of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasadpan (HUMANDA KA), a formation of Humabol chapters in the first district of Bohol.

In 2018, the victim, along with his wife and children, worked as volunteers for the construction of a coconut processing plant managed by farmers organizations in Barangay Tinibgan, Maribojoc which now produces virgin coconut oil.

In June 26, 2018, the victim’s house was subjected to a warrantless search by around 30 members of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the said province.

His family complained of maltreatment during the said incident, HUMABOL-KMP said.

In previous years, the Paña family also reported of being harassed by state forces.

Paña’s killing happened while the 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the PNP in Western Visayas killed nine Tumandok indigenous peoples in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, also in the Visayas.

Bohol peasant activist Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña, killed in Balilihan, Bohol last December 30. (Humabol-KMP photo)

Immediate condemnation of the Tumandok massacre

The massacre in Panay Island earned swift condemnation from church leaders and organizations.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose Diocese suffered similar police and military Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) that also resulted in massacres, cried out, “Do we have to kill our perceived ‘enemies’ – especially if they are unarmed?”

“Is this the way we celebrate Christmas as a Christian country about to welcome the New Year and 500 Years of Christianity [in the Philippines?” the prelate asked.

“How long will this spiral of violence continue? Have we run out of peaceful means? Are we that desperate? Do we really, seriously believe this is the effective and lasting way to solve our social ills? I RAISE MY VOICE TO CRY OUT: “NO MORE KILLING!” We want PEACE – JUST and LASTING PEACE!” he added.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PNP) in Panay and Guimaras islands directly blamed PNP chief Debold Sinas for the death of nine Tumandok leaders and activists yesterday.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok, an indigenous people of Panay, on the early hours of yesterday in the mountainous villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang’, his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR’s Fr. Marco Sulayao said in a statement.

The faith-based group also blamed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) agent Jeffrey Celis it said petitioned for the search warrants in Metro Manila Regional Trial Courts used for the operations.

“Blood is on the hands of NTF-ELCAC red-taggers, especially Jeffrey Celis, who according to [a] reliable source, petitioned for the said warrants,” PCPR said.

National labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) included President Rodrigo Duterte in the blame for the massacre.

“The blood of the Tumandok is in the hands of Duterte, Sinas, PNP and NTF-ELCAC. They wantonly kill the indigenous peoples to give way to projects of big capitalists,” KMU said in a statement.

“We condemn this heinous killing perpetrated by the mercenary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) -PNP. It is most likely that the police and military will present the killed and arrested Tumandok as members of the New People’s Army when in fact, they are just farmers and indigenous people defending their ancestral land and farms against land grabbing,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

Indigenous people’s group Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) also denounced “the government’s wanton disregard for human rights and laments the death of our people’s heroes.”

“Our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment,” Katribu said in a statement.

“The indigenous peoples have nowhere to run to anymore. We will certainly hold the line,” it added.

An IP rights advocate calls for the dissolution of the government agency they blame for red-tagging the victims that led to their massacre. (Katribu photo)

Red-tagged victims

Killed in the synchronized and simultaneous operations in the neighboring towns were former Barangay Captain and  current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) chairperson Roy Giganto, his Barangay Lahug co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre; Eliseo Gayas Jr. of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz; Mario Diaz of Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz; Artilito Katipunan of Barangay Acuna, Tapaz; and Barangay Nawayan chairperson Dalson Catamen of Tapaz.

Former TUMANDUK chairperson and Tapaz local government employee Marevic Aquirre is missing, believed to have been abducted by the police.

Two youth residents of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz town are also reported missing.

The PNP reported it arrested 17 other Tumandok from its SEMPO.

“These Tumandok leaders were very active in reclaiming their ancestral land now occupied by the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army military reservation. They were also active in resisting the construction of the Jalaur mega-dam,” PCPR said.

The community of Lahug also resisted the coercion of military troopers to sign a resolution declaring the CPP/NPA as “persona non grata” in their barangay, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP, PNP troops kill 5 mango orchard workers in Rizal

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) killed five mango orchard workers in Baras, Rizal last Thursday, December 17, human rights and peasant groups reported.

Troops belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) of the AFP and the Region IV-A Command of the PNP killed Carlito Zonio, Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Jonathan Alberga, and Niño Alberga, workers of a mango farm in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan of the said town, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

The AFP said the 2:30 AM incident was a shootout with members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The AFP added they conducted the pre-dawn raid to serve a warrant of arrest to a certain Antonio Cule that resulted in an encounter and the death of the victims.

Brigadier General Alex Rillera, 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, said two of the victims were “Ka Sandra” and “Ka Onli” of the NPA.

Philippine Army social media accounts also alleged the victims were NPA members, one of them was even a “top spy” for the group.

But Karapatan-ST, quoting eyewitnesses and the victims’ neighbors, said Zonio,  Salabao, and Obmerga were farm caretakers and mango tree sprayers while the Albergas were guards.

The victims had been workers at the farm in the last three years.

Marco Valbuena, Communist Party of the Philippines public information officer, denied the victims were NPA members.

“We denounce the AFP’s peddling of fake news to cover up their criminal responsibility in the Baras 5 Massacre,” Valbuena said in a tweet.

PNP refuses to release cadavers

The police took the remains of the victims to the Antipolo Memorial Homes but refused to release the cadavers of three of the victims to their families.

The remains of the guards were handed over to their relatives.

The Karapatan-ST fact-finding team also complained of harassment by PNP teams when they assisted families of the three in retrieving their cadavers from the funeral home Monday night, December 21.

Police officers demanded that members of the fact-finding team alight from their vehicles and present their identification cards.

The human rights workers refused.

The harassment continued last December 22 at the Antipolo police station where a Karapatan paralegal was isolated and forced to erase photos from his camera.

In a statement, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) joined Karapatan and the peasant organizations affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in condemning “yet another state-sponsored massacre.”

SAKA said, “Instead of counting presents this holiday season, the Filipino people are counting corpses.”

The murder of the so-called Baras 5 raises the peasant death toll under President Rodrigo Duterte to 295, SAKA added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

De Lima, rights defenders warn UN on Duterte’s ‘snake oil salesman of a government’

By adopting a more diplomatic tone in its resolution on the state of human rights in the Philippines, did the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expect the Rodrigo Duterte government to suddenly behave? Senator Leila de Lima asked.

Reacting to the Council’s position on the penultimate day of its 45th General Session last Wednesday, the imprisoned Senator asked the UNHRC if after 28,000 murders and hundreds of cases of attacks on critics and human rights defenders, does it expect the Duterte government to “grow a conscience and cultivate an appetite for the promotion and defense of human rights?”

In a statement read at an online press conference by her spokesperson Atty Fhillip Sawali last Thursday, October 8, the Senator also expressed doubt that the technical cooperation offered by the UNHRC to Duterte’s government will finally enable it to fulfill its international obligations on human rights.

De Lima said the resolution is “not responsive to the human rights calamity under the Duterte government,” adding the new UNHRC resolution is out of sync and incongruous with its earlier resolution calling for in-country investigations by independent experts on reports of human rights violations the President himself encouraged.

“It does not meaningfully address the need to stop the policies and practices that result in EJKs (extrajudicial killings) and other gross human rights violations. It does not put in place an independent investigation of the killings and other abuses,” de Lima said.

She added that technical assistance and capacity-building for domestic investigative and accountability and similar measures do not result in any concrete mechanism that can lead to the prosecution and punishment of the masterminds and perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations.

The Senator said she fears that the government may just use UNHRC’s supposed technical assistance and capacity-building programs as convenient covers to hide its actual policy of contempt towards human rights and human rights defenders.

“In other words: the new UNHRC resolution fails to take concrete steps towards ending the killings. It likewise fails to advance the cause of justice for the numerous victims and their bereaved families,” she said.

De Lima urged the UNHRC “not to be easily swayed by the snake oil salesman of a government that has clearly declared an open war against human rights and the rule of law.”

 “How do you disable a killing machine? You confront it tenaciously, with all the talents and tools that you have, aiming at disarming and dismantling it, and holding responsible all its masterminds and operators,” de Lima said.

Diplomacy at work?

Philippine government officials were quick to welcome the UNHRC resolution and claimed the international body trusts that Philippine criminal and judicial institutions to address human rights violations.

In an online briefing Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the resolution “shows that the UN Human Rights Council trusts the institutions tasked to address human rights violators.”

“We will fully cooperate with the UN Human Rights system because that is what we want. We are not saying we are perfect. Do not criticize us and help us instead,” Roque said.

Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra for his part said he will get the proferred technical cooperation with the UNHRC going and create a panel to review drug operations resulting in deaths.

The latest UNHRC resolution was co-sponsored by the Philippine government.

‘Simple posturing’

Asked on the possible reasons for the tone of the resolution and the calmer response by the Philippine government, National Union of Peoples Lawyers president Edre Olalia said it appears that the Duterte government is shifting its stance from belligerence to mollification.

“After overwhelming, persistent and consistent condemnation by the international community on the state of human rights in the Philippines, the Duterte government painted itself to a corner by its combative stance in the past,” Olalia said.

“The calmer tone may be a tactical approach to temper criticism of its record and it may also be a strategic approach to preempt accountability for its human rights violations,” Olalia added.

The lawyer also explained that voting at the UN is political and influenced by set voting patterns, lobbying, quid-pro-quo among States, and regional considerations.

“But what is relevant is whether the victims receive justice or the perpetrators are only emboldened further. In the end, it is the policy and reality on the ground that matters,” he said.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay added that the Duterte government should not be too quick on claiming it won points with a resolution written in fine language.

“What is very clear is that there still needs to be strong domestic accountability and impartial investigations,” Palabay said, noting that the resolution is still based on the report filed by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) detailing thousands of rights violations by the Duterte government.

“The challenge here is how the Philippine government honors and views OHCHR recommendations, as well as those by other independent local and international human rights organizations,” Palabay stressed.

Palabay recalled Duterte’s recent online address of the UN General Assembly where he called for “open dialogue” and “constructive engagement” but complained that human rights had been “weaponized” against him and his government by local and international critics.

“Duterte is clearly just posturing. In any case, the ball is in the government’s court, so to speak,” she said.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas also dismissed the government’s assurance of dialogue and cooperation with human rights mechanisms.

“Any technical cooperation and capacity building on human rights for the part of the Duterte government  would just be tokenistic and superficial. Duterte’s practice of human rights promotion is practically naught. Soon enough, he would [again] be verbally lashing at the UNHRC and human rights defenders,” the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pagpupugay at paghatid sa huling hantungan kay Randall Echanis

Nagbigay-pugay ang mga kaanak, kaibigan, at mga progresibong grupo sa martir ng sambayanan at mahusay na lider na si Randall ‘Ka Randy’ Echanis mula sa pinagburulan nito hanggang sa kaniyang huling hantungan sa Loyola Memorial Park sa Marikina noong Agosto 17.

Si Echanis ay isang National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant, tagapangulo ng Anakpawis at pangalawang pangkalahatang kalihim ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. Brutal na pinaslang siya sa kanyang tinitirhang bahay sa Quezon City noong Agosto 10. Nagtamo ng maraming saksak, tama ng baril at bakas ng tortyur ang katawan ni Echanis. Kasama rin sa napaslang ang isang lalaking nagngangalang Louie Tagapia.

Hustisya ang panawagan ng mga naulila ni Echanis.

Groups hold protest to cry for justice for slain peasant leader

Peasant groups hold a protest today, August 14, in front of Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City to cry for justice for one of their leaders, Randall “Randy” Echanis.

Echanis was brutally killed in his rented house last August 10. Aside from being a peasant leader, he was also a peace consultant and known member of National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

‘Killing Ka Randy is clearly an act of state terrorism’

“No cover-up could undermine this established political killing. Killing Ka Randy, a leader of Anakpawis and Philippine peasant movement, is clearly an act of state terrorism. This targetting of an unarmed civilian is also known as crime against humanity in the International Criminal Court. Ka Randy’s murder adds to the bloody criminal record of the Duterte regime.”Zenaida Soriano, Chairperson, Amihan National

‘Ito ay bahagi ng nagpapatuloy na crackdown sa hanay ng mga kritiko ng rehimen’

“Ito ay bahagi ng nagpapatuloy na crackdown sa hanay ng mga kritiko ng rehimen. Nagluluksa kami ngayon. Ano pa ba ang gusto ninyo, pinatay na ninyo ang aming ama. Ano pa ba ang gusto ninyo gawin, yurak-yurakan pa? Hindi pa ba kayo kuntento. Bigyan ninyo kami ng panahon na magluksa. Bigyan ninyo kami ng panahon na alayan ng dignidad ang aming ama. Bigyan ninyo kami ng panahon na maningil at maniningil kami sa takdang panahon.” Ariel Casilao, Former Representative, Anakpawis Party List