Bandillo: Struggle for agrarian reform


“Kaasi pay ni mannalon, awan latta’t daga na!” (Woe to the farmers, they remain landless!)

This sums up the dire situation of the peasantry in the country after five decades of the government’s land reform program. The toiling farmers remain exploited and landless.

To reiterate their call for genuine agrarian reform and justice for slain and detained farmers, tens of thousands of farmers will converge in Manila and in Cebu in a nationally-coordinated protest caravan dubbed Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo. This will be held from October 16 to 25.

The month-long protest is a call for the Duterte administration to fulfill its promise of genuine agrarian reform and to put an end to the worsening state fascism.

Failed land reform

This October 21 marks 45 years after the enactment of Presidential Decree No. 27 of the Marcos Dictatorship. This year also marks the 30th year of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Despite issuance PD27 and CARP, big landlords evade the distribution of lands by declaring that the property is reserved for land conversion for subdivisions, recreation, industrial and commercial use.

Large estates and other agricultural lands declared for distribution remain in the hands of the landlords. In Cagayan, the more than 3,000-hectare Villacete Estate remains in the hands of the powerful Villacete clan of Piat, Cagayan.

Collective CLOAs covering more than a thousand hectares have been cancelled in Amulung and Iguig in favor of the rubber plantation company. And in Diasan, Echague, resident farmers are in imminent danger of losing their land because of impending cancellation of their collective CLOA issued to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to favor the National Greening Program of one Felix Manalo Foundation.

With the Build, Build, Build program of the administration, more agricultural lands will also be affected by the construction of expressways, dams, and military complexes, among others.

Fascist attacks

Attacks on peasants have been prevalent even before this administration. Who would forget the Kidapawan incident where farmers were met with bullets when they held a mobilization to ask for support during the period of drought? And of course, Hacienda Luisita! For more than a decade after the incident, perpetrators of the massacre have not been held accountable.

As of late, the attacks on the peasants have escalated with Duterte’s war on drugs and counter-insurgency programs. Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) recorded that out of 88 extrajudicial killings recorded up to August 2017, 81 victims are peasants.

Recently on Sept 29, 5 members of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (Kired) & Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa, Inc (Sapakkmmi), known actively resisting large-scale mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya, were illegally arrested and charged with trumped up cases of Illegal Possession of Explosives and Ammunition and Illegal Possession of Firearms. They were wrongly tagged as members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Among the detained is a minor from Brgy Billet, Kasibu. They are currently detained in Bambang Municipal Police Station.

At Mauanan Rizal, farmers asserting their right to till the land at 200-ha Villaflor Estate have been charged with frustrated murder, trespassing, and other common crimes.

As of late, in Cagayan Valley, 14 out of 16 political prisoners are farmers fighting for their right to land.

The resurrection of Arroyo’s draconian Inter-agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), now called Interagency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) under Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan will exacerbate the worsening human rights situation in the country.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) has aptly declared, this would “institutionalize cover-up, mechanically pass off blame and brazenly harass or intimidate so-called ‘enemies of the State’ by enemies of the people… It was a legal tool of repression and a legal mantle of impunity then, it will be an illegal tool of repression and an illegal mantle of impunity now. Enough already of these silly dangerous gimmicks.”

Failed promise

During the campaign for presidency, Duterte declared he understood the plight for the farmers, free irrigation, and the failure of previous land reform programs. He appeared to take the side of farmers only to renege on this promises. Without social and economic reforms in the country, the root cause of agrarian and social unrest in the country will be difficult to resolve.

As to Duterte’s creeping dictatorship and the looming imposition of martial rule, this will be met with fierce resistance from the peasantry and the people. #


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