Lorna Tecson of KAUGMAON-KMP (R) in Aninaw’s live Facebook broadcast, October 16.
CEBU CITY – “Nanay” (Mother) Lorna Tecson crossed the Tañon Strait between Negros Island and Cebu and travelled with fellow peasant leaders a few days ahead of the inter-island protest caravan, Lakbayan ng Visayas. Representing her organization KAUGMAON, Nanay Lorna is to talk to about the killings in her home locale, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.
Sitting in a makeshift TV studio with young activists of the Cebu-based Aninaw Productions, an alternative media group which runs podcasts, community radio programs and live mobile broadcasts on their Facebook page, Nanay Lorna freely narrated how her own family came across military harassment and atrocities. Local farmers like her are constantly subjected to red-tagging and profiling. KAUGMAON is the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros Oriental.
Lorna’s husband, Alberto “Leboy” Tecson, a fisherman and local leader of Pamalakaya, was shot dead in front of their children on July 24, the same day President Duterte delivered his 2nd State of the Nation Address. Tecson is the 2nd victim in an “extra-judicial killing-spree” in Guihulngan City which has now claimed a total of 8 victims in a span of only three months.
The Aninaw broadcast also sought to bring the issue of Tiempo Muerto (dead season) or the off-milling season in the sugar industry which plagues impoverished farmworkers annually. The broadcast attracted over 2,000 viewers – a fairly insignificant figure compared to the millions of viewers that big networks reach everyday with regular newscasts.
The feisty anchor Mel, speaking in the local vernacular, nevertheless stated the importance of bringing these issues to the general public especially the youth — the so-called “millennials” that they reach through broadcasts in social media could be made aware of issues related to land reform, food security and other concerns of ordinary Filipino people.
“Tiempo muerto and the issue of peasant killings are rarely discussed in mainstream media. We didn’t know of Leboy’s killing until we met Nanay Lorna here, and they are not the only victims,” Mel said. According to Karapatan’s latest tally, 91 farmers have become victims of political killings since President Duterte assumed office.
Today, October 17, more victims of militarization are set to converge here in the city for the Lakbayan ng Visayas, an inter-island protest caravan which is part of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo this October. Thousands of farmers from Negros, Panay, Bohol, and Eastern Visayan islands are set to camp-out at Plaza Independencia.
A week earlier, on October 13, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) with the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth), and peasant advocate / artist groups Sinagbayan and SAKA also launched a live Social Media Forum at Roots Katipunan in Quezon City with farmers from Hacienda Luisita and the Buffalo, Tamaraw, Limus (BTL) associations of Bukidnon. Campus journalists vowed to bring peasant issues in the pages of their publications.
“In the next few days, you can expect that we will not only provide broader print space to air these issues – (the youth) will fervently march alongside the farmers and the people in their bid to expose the anti-people policies of the Duterte regime, seek justice for the killings, and to advance the struggle for free land distribution and genuine land reform,” CEGP National President Jose Mari Callueng said in a statement read at the forum. The forum’s social media broadcast attracted over 4,000 viewers on Facebook.
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, lauded the young activists’ efforts and encouraged similar initiatives. “Farmers’ concerns are actually dead beat in media, but there is a host of issues in the countryside that the public must be aware of. The perennial land problem is actually the root of the country’s woes,” he said.
“All forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation as manifested in the abusive hacienda and plantation system must end. Farmers and the Filipino people will continue to march and protest without genuine land reform and national industrialization,” said Lozande.
The Lakbayan ng Visayas camp-out in this city will run until October 20. Meanwhile, peasant groups led by KMP from Mindanao, Bicol provinces, Southern Tagalog and Central and Northern Luzon will converge in Quezon City on October 23. The Lakbay Magsasaka protests will culminate in a big mobilization in Manila on October 25.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 17, 2017
Reference: John Milton Lozande, Secretary General, UMA, 09100314479