By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Another batch of Lumad from Bukidnon province were rescued from their “slave-like” work in Pangasinan and La Union according to the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Agricultural Workers’ Union or UMA).
The group said that on July 4 the Commission on Human Rights Region I (CHR-I) facilitated the release of 17 workers from San Fernando and Quezon, Bukidnon from their “abusive employer” in Sual, Pangasinan. Of these individuals, 13 are Lumad who belong to the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe and members of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA).
In a statement, CHR-I said that they acted based on the complaint filed by two of the 32 Lumads who escaped from Lucky Fortune Incorporated, a fish farm owned by Shiera Hao. Personnel from the office went to the place and talked to the owner who “allowed the immediate release” and provided “a certain amount” for the workers’ transportation. After which, the CHR team turned them over the Pangasinan Social Welfare and Development Office in Lingayen.
On the same day, seven more Lumad, belonging to the same tribe, escaped from their Chinese employer in Bani, Rosario, La Union. The Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation), the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, assisted them after getting out of the “tightly guarded” compound where they are housed.
In a sworn statement, Marlon Cagabcab, one of those who escaped from Rosario said that Danny Talisan and Rizalina De Felix recruited them to work. The two individuals are the same ones who recruited the 32 Lumad that escaped last June 30 from Hao’s fish farm.
They were promised P8,000 month pay with an advance given before they left for Manila on June 12. Their recruiter also told them of free lodging and food at their work. However, De Felix who accompanied them during the travel, made them use the money until they reached Pangasinan.
“Ang aming katayuan sa tirahan sa bahay ay parang preso. Double-decker ang higaan. Kapag kami ay umalis sa bahay, kailangan ay meron kaming gate pass at mapakita sa kanila kung ano aming rason bakit kami lalabas ng bahay. May pader na mataas ang bahay at may nakatalagang security na may baril (We were like prisoners. Our beds were double-decker. We need gate pass before we can leave the place. The walls of the house are high at there are armed guards),” Cagabcab recalled.
Working for 12 hours starting at 6:00 am, the workers only have a raincoat to protect from the elements while feeding the fish at the 10-hectare aquaculture farm. Their employer fed them with eggs and dried fish every day and received P500 for their two weeks of work instead of the promised amount. They can only eat at around 7:00 pm, this is after they have carried and loaded about 50 sacks of fishmeal for the following day.
“Sa sobrang takot at trauma na naranasan ko sa bangusan ng mga Hao ay sumama akong tumakas noong 8:00 pm ng Hulyo 4. Sumabay kami sa paglabas sa isa sa mga manggagawa na matagal na sa bangusan (Due to the extreme fear and trauma I experienced at the fish farm of the Hao I joined those who escape on July 4 at 8:00 pm. We went out with the workers who worked in the farm for a long time),” he added.
Assisted by farmers
“Inpadanun kanyami ti UMA ti panagdawat dagiti kakabsattayo a Lumad ditoy La Union ti tulong isunga dagus kami ang nangbukel ti grupo a mabalin a komontak ken mangbayabay kanyada bayat iti panagpanawda manipud ti abusado nga amoda (UMA informed us of the request of the Lumad in La Union so we immediately composed a group that will contact and assist them while they escape from their ab11usive employer),” narrated Zaldy Alfiler, secretary-general of Stop Exploitation.
He said that they received the information on the morning of July 4 and was able to contact one of the workers after lunch. Stop Exploitation members in La Union met with the leader of the group at around 6:00 pm and planned how they can get out with the armed guards noticing. At around 7:30 pm the Lumad, who left their things and went out of the compound one by one, started arriving at the extraction point. Stop Exploitation provided their fare and sent them on the same night to Cubao where UMA picked them up at pass 12:00 midnight and brought them to the CHR compound.
“Daytoy a pasamak ket mangipakpakita ti pananggundaway ti rigat a sagsagrapen dagiti Lumad idiay Mindanao. Nayon pay ti pnakaiduronda nga agbirok ti pangeddan iti adayo a lugar ti kasasaad a mabikbiktimada ti nakaro a ranggas-militar ken Martial Law sadiay Mindanao (This incident showed how they exploit the hardships of the Lumad in Mindanao. An added reason that force them to find jobs in far places is the fact that they fall victim to military abuses and martial law in Mindanao),”
According to UMA, the TINDOGA is battling Mayor Pablo Lorenzo III for the control of their ancestral land. The area where they came from is also experiencing tiempo-muerto (off-milling and off-harvest season), leaving them without any livelihood. Most of them are working as sugarcane-cutters and members of the Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON/ United Small Farmworkers Union), a local chapter of UMA. TINDOGA and OGYON are both victims of red-tagging by the military, with some of its members falling victim to fake surrender and extra-judicial killings. # nordis.net