By RANI URBIS
MANILA — Anakpawis Partylist Representative Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano calls the Mendiola camp-out as a historical landmark in the struggle for genuine land reform. He said that the 5-day camp out is a first as other mobilizations in the past have only gotten as far as a view of the Mendiola gate.
“That is why this is one victory for the peasant movement to have asserted to stay here in Mendiola for 5 days,” said Ka Paeng on the Oct. 21 culmination program of Lakbayan that agitated a crowd of more than 1,000 farmers and youth from regions and provinces of Luzon and Visayas and members of COURAGE, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), National Network for Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA-Youth), Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Migrante and Gabriela from the National Capital Region (NCR) and from progressive partylists such as Anakpawis, ACT Teachers, Bayan Muna and Gabriela.
The participants from the NCR first conducted a march rally from Morayta to Mendiola in support of the farmers calls. After the speech of Ka Paeng, Noynoy’s effigy was burned as a symbol of the farmers and the people’s rage against his landlord-dominated regime and its complete submission to US imperialist policies.
Lakbayan is an annual October mobilization of farmers in the country spearheaded by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or KMP to assert the call for genuine land reform. In past years, Lakbayan participants used to camp-out at the DAR National Office in Quezon City but this time farmers were able to assert for a camp-out in Mendiola for the first time. The Mendiola camp-out started on Oct. 17 with farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Negros.
The 100 farmers, youth and church participants from Ilocos arrived at Mendiola on the morning of Oct. 20, led by the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation or STOP Exploitation.
Camp-out and Integration
The camp-out started the Oct. 20 morning with a symbolic breakfast of leaders of different farmers’ organizations from the regions and provinces with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño.
A short program where the provinces and regions shared their situations followed. A photo exhibit by provinces of Central Luzon was also unveiled that told of landgrabbing in Aurora and in Bayambang, Pangasinan as well as the gains and continuing struggles of Hacienda Luisita farmers for their right to land.
Photos showed Hacienda Luisita farmers and their families tilling the “Bungkalan”, a portion of land they were able to acquire from the vast 11,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita through their collective struggles.
STOP Exploitation officers Avelino Dacanay and Zaldy Alfiler also imparted Ilocos farmers’ situation to members of NNARA Youth, HEAD and the All-UP Workers’ Alliance revealing issues of bogus land reform, exploitative practices in the tobacco and mining industries in Ilocos.
Ilocos youth participants headed by Kabataan Partylist also joined the street painting activity in the afternoon of Oct. 20 wherein calls against US-Imperialism and feudalism was the highlight as a huge painting of Noynoy clothed in US flag occupied a large area of the camp-out premises. Paintings also showed calls for genuine land reform and the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) in Congress.
The situationers and stories from all paticipating provinces and regions recounted peoples’ struggles against landgrabbing, militarization and for genuine land reform.
The Solidarity night also on the eve of Oct. 20, organizations sang and acted out their support to the farmers’ struggles; delivered solidarity messages that not only gave support to the farmers’ calls but also linked their sectoral situations to the whole Filipino nation/people who are all victims of US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism.
Anakpawis Partylist Representive Rafael Mariano meanwhile stressed the role of progressive partylists in formulating bills and resolutions to assert through the legislative processes the rights and welfare of farmers while farmers’ struggles in the countrysides continue to gain grounds. He said that the GARB needs to be passed and that farmers should write and persuade their district representatives in Congress to support the passage of the Bill in Congress.
Local issues highlighted
STOP Exploitation and Kabataan Partylist Ilocos carried the calls for P128/kg tobacco floor price and against mining and militarization during the Lakbayan and the cancellation of Certificates of Land Titles and the demolition threat in Brgy. Bato, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur.
Secretary General Zaldy Alfiler also pushed the call for P128/kg tobacco floor price. He exposed the connivance between the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) and trading centers under Philip Morris, Incorporated-Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) with the mere P6-peso increase granted in the last Tobacco Tripartite Conference held last September 12 which is too exploitative and therefore the P128/kg floor price call.
STOP Exploitation also exposed the harassment of its Chairman, Avelino Dacanay where a military agent sat near him in a waiting shed in Bauang, La Union and repeatedly shoved him a gun last July. The acts of harassment that Anakpawis Partylist and Panagkaykaysa dagiti Mannalon iti Naguilian (PAMANA) leaders and members have been experiencing in Naguilian was also exposed where Naguilian Mayor Reynaldo Flores and members of PNP have repeatedly rounded up leaders and members about their membership in their partylist and organizations.
Further, STOP Exploitation also shared and asked support to the anti-mining campaign of Ilocos. 144 mining tenement applications are now approved in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union including Pangasinan in onshore and offshore areas of Region I based on data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region I.
According to Zaldy Alfiler, the participation in this years’ Lakbayan boosted the morale of the participants from Ilocos and has given them insights into the experiences and lessons of the farmers’ struggles in other regions. “Our participation here has made us more resolute to continue the struggle for genuine land reform. The demolition threat in Bato, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur will be in a few days and we need this kind of morale boost.”# nordis.net