By Baretang Bikolnon Staff
QUEZON CITY – After the more-than-a-day long protest caravan dubbed as ‘Lakbay Paraoma’, 1,500 Bicol farmers finally arrived in Manila Monday to hold President Rodrigo Duterte primarily responsible for the killing of farmers and fascism on land distribution in the country.
With 28 buses, the delegates of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB) for the national protest caravan “Lakbay Magsasaka” of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) were welcomed Bukidnon Free Farmers Association and Laborers Organization (BUFFALO), Tried Agricultural Movers Association of Rural Active Workers (TAMARAW), and the Landless Tillers Inhabitants of Musuan (LIMUS), collectively known as BTL from Bukidnon and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries One Movement (ARB One) from the Davao region.
BTL farmers have been cultivating about 500-hectares controlled by Central Mindano University as educational reserve while members of ARB One include those former ARBs and farm-workers in plantation lands controlled by Lapanday and Tagum Development Corporation (TADECO) in Davao Del Norte.
The farmers are members of Anakpawis Party-list who staunchedly demanded the immediate direct distribution of the multi-billion peso coconut levy fund to small farmers, as proposed by House Bill No. 557, authored by Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao who joined the the Bicol contingent since Saturday in Naga City.
“While the region is rich in natural resources, fertile vast tracks of farmlands, fishing areas, as well as coconut-based production, sugarcane, natural gas and other resources, the region was still ranked as the fourth poorest in the country, and majority among the poor are farmers who composed 75% of the population,” said Casilao who blames the Duterte administration for the miserable state of the peasant sector.
The lawmaker and leaders of KMB blamed this miserable state to the government policies, primarily the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program, destructive economic projects and undemocratic measures against legitimate protests.
KMB declared that the Duterte government failed the Bicolano farmers and his economic programs and policies are recycled or rehashed from hsi predecessors, leading to massive displacement of farmers from their land and livelihood.
“Duterte is selling out lands in the region to favor haciendero and oligarchs, opened up the mountain ranges for plunderous mining operations, converted lands and delimited fishing grounds, he is actually killing us via his neoliberal policies which are plagiarized from the ‘dilawan’ and Gloria Arroyo regimes,” said Norberto Autor, chairperson of KMP who will take the lead in camping outside DAR.
Charito David, chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Masbate (KMM), denounced the callous government projects that leads to displacement of farmers and fisherfolks, such as the eco-tourism project in Aroroy town, Masbate. The local government is using police and military forces to repress the people’s opposition, led by Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Mapanirang Pagmimina at Kumbersyong Agraryo (Umalpas Ka). They are opposing a tourism project of the partnership Macau gambling tycoon Stanley Ho and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
“Farmers in the country continue to be killed as reprisal for their struggle for their rights to land, this systematic barbarism is on the tab of President Duterte and we hold him morally liable,” Casilao said during the arrival at the camp-out in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City.
The lawmaker stated that even prior to Duterte’s sham war on drugs, farmers have been slaughtered by the fascist forces of past administrations. Karapatan earlier publicized their summary documentation of extra-judicial killings against farmers under the Duterte administration and its predecessors. The Macapagal-Arroyo regime for her 9 year-rule (January 20, 2011 – June 30, 2010) killed 603 farmers and Aquino’s term with 270 for his 6-year term (June 30, 2010 – June 30, 2016). Duterte’s rule caused the average killings of farmer per month at 6, surpassing Arroyo’s 5 and Aquino’s 4.
Meanwhile, Casilao urged the cause-oriented groups and civil society organizations to join the peasant-led Coalition for Land Against Martial law and Oppression or Clamor. It included as convenors, former agrarian reform secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines leader Sr. Elenita Belardo, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Jr and National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) Secretary-General Reuel Marigza.
About 10,000 farmers and activists are expected to join the culminating protest at Mendiola bridge in Manila on October 25, to push for a stop to killings of farmers and enactment of a genuine agrarian reform program in the country. Casilao and lawmakers under the Makabayan bloc are pushing for the enactment of House Bill No. 555 – Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) in congress, that provisions free distribution of lands to poor farmers across the country. (BaretangBikolnon.com)