Pin Virgie Torres now, farmworkers dare Aquino

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Torres on Aquino and Hacienda Luisita “I lease land and we plant sugarcane together.” Photo: Inquirer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 26, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Criminal complaints already filed but gathering dust at DOJ

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today challenged President Aquino, his spokespersons and involved government agencies to stop issuing mere “damage control” statements against Presidential Kabarilan Virgie Torres, and immediately act on criminal complaints already filed against her.

UMA Acting Chairperson John Milton Lozande said that Aquino can immediately prove his sincerity in “punishing wrongdoers” by simply looking into strong complaints made against Torres by Hacienda Luisita farmers last year, which are now gathering dust at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Complaints of malicious mischief, grave threats and grave coercion against Torres, et al with docket number XVI-INV-14J-00352 were filed October 2014 at the DOJ, by Luisita farmers assisted by Atty. Jobert Pahilga of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA).

Torres is embroiled in a sugar smuggling scandal at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), where she allegedly used her links with President Aquino by emphasizing that she leases land (in Hacienda Luisita) and they plant sugarcane together.

“Puro lang salita at pagdistansya kay Virgie Torres ang ginagawa ng Malacanang at pati na ni Secretary delos Reyes ng DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform). Sa totoo lang, lahat naman sila ay kasabwat sa mga ilegal na transaksyon ni Torres, (Malacanang and even DAR Sec. delos Reyes keep on harping empty words distancing themselves from Virgie Torres. But they are all actually complicit in her illegal transactions,” said Rudy Corpuz, vice-chairperson of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA.

AMBALA is UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac province.

In radio interviews, Virgie Torres already admitted that she is into leasing lands in Hacienda Luisita, a practice which victimizes supposed farmworker-beneficiaries of the 2012 Supreme Court decision for total land distribution in the controversial sugar estate.

“We believe that the DAR has complete knowledge of Torres’s transactions in Luisita. According to the victims, even local DAR lawyers and employees go out of their way to personally facilitate transactions and even the violent eviction of farmers and destruction of their food crops to make way for Torres’s sugarcane aryendo with the Cojuangco-Aquinos,” said Lozande.

According to AMBALA, Torres is practically a resident of Barangay Mapalacsiao in Hacienda Luisita, which she frequents because she has effective control over at least 200 hectares of land in this barangay alone. Torres also allegedly maintains a garage of heavy equipment and a storage house for farm inputs also within Mapalacsiao.

Corpuz added that it is not only Virgie Torres or DAR officials who are implicated in recent criminal acts in Luisita, but also goons of the Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) owned by the President’s kin, and the police and military officers under their command.

Even the pro-landlord Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its Extension with Reforms (CARPER) prohibit the sale or lease of farmlots allocated through land reform, for a ten-year holding period.

“We would not be surprised if, through their so-called investigations, these corrupt DAR officials and Aquino’s rabid minions would conclude that the Torres land scam is ultimately the fault of the thousands of supposed Luisita beneficiaries swindled and coerced by Aquino’s fake land distribution process,” said Lozande.

“What can we expect from despotic landlords? Even with the Hacienda Luisita massacre more than ten years ago, Aquino callously blamed the dead and the wounded for the carnage,” said Lozande.


One video uploaded by Luisita Watch (https://youtu.be/UvkH32Deo2U) emphasizes the role of local DAR officials in facilitating the destruction of farmers’ crops in Brgy. Mapalacsiao, where Torres controls at least 200 hectares of land.

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Sugar workers support Colmenares reso to probe smuggling

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Rep. Neri Colmenares. Photo: Pinoy Weekly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 25, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Sugar workers expressed support for House Resolution No. 2413 (HR 2413) directing the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to conduct an inquiry on rampant sugar smuggling, filed yesterday by Representative Neri J. Colmenares of Bayan Muna Partylist amid the ‘Sugargate’ scandal at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) involving Presidential Kabarilan Virginia Torres.

“We back Rep. Colmenares’s initiative to investigate sugar smuggling, long considered by industry stakeholders and even ordinary sugar workers as a serious matter that government should immediately address,” said John Milton Lozande, Acting Chairperson of the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

Lozande is also the secretary-general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros Island, where more than half of the country’s total sugar output is produced.

Colmenares’s house resolution noted that the reported series of smuggling happened and swelled into an alarming level in such a short period of time, amounting to an estimated total of Php 140 million during the second quarter of 2015, not including “what may have passed through BOC monitoring, as admitted by BOC Commissioner Alberto Lina.”

UMA observed that sugar smuggling became even more pronounced despite purported “tighter government policy” through the implementation of the recently-enacted Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015.

“Even before President Aquino signed the SIDA last April, UMA had already forewarned concerned Congress and Senate committees that come 2015 sugar smuggling in the country would have certainly gotten out of hand. We have long expressed this point in several of our position papers precisely criticizing the rationale behind the sugar bills which eventually became the SIDA,” said Lozande.

In these papers, UMA decried government’s flawed framework in “protecting the sugar industry” and its complete lack of will to challenge the very evil that has made the current crisis imminent – liberalization in agriculture.

UMA stated that “only through the repudiation of unequal neoliberal trade and economic treaties such as the GATT-WTO and the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and the implementation of genuine land reform can the crisis in the sugar industry and in the whole sector of agriculture can decisively be resolved.”

UMA also blasted certain government agencies for corruption in handling sugar funds.

“If (government) cannot as of yet be relied upon to pursue the aforementioned solutions, it should at least try to look into the alleged cases of corruption (in) irregularly hefty bonuses of executives in the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), or into the reported anomalies in the implementation of the SAP (Social Amelioration Program for sugar workers)”

“It is very timely as well for the Senate to probe the extent of sugar smuggling in the country and set up ways to preempt its escalation especially come 2015 when sugar tariffs for imported sugar, as dictated by rapacious global neoliberal policies, finally becomes zero rated,” reads a position paper submitted January last year during a Senate hearing on the sugar industry, where UMA also led a picket-protest with sugar workers under its affiliate KAISAHAN; along with a local alliance of small sugar planters from Batangas.

Colmenares’s HR  2413 also noted that “the sale of illegally imported sugar shall only be possible if the SRA approves for the auction of the confiscated shipments of sugar.” UMA pointed out that with reported corruption at the SRA, the public must also be made aware of how government utilizes proceeds from smuggled sugar.

“If these shipments are not returned to Thailand, burned, destroyed or thrown out to sea, then sugar workers would not want to hear that funds culled from these illegal shipments have disappeared in thin air – only to bankroll Roxas and the Liberal Party’s bid for six more tortuous years along Daang Matuwid,” said Lozande.

UMA also agrees with Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, who said that “Torres will not be brave enough to pull this daring stunt (at the BOC) without any connection in high level government offices.”

“We cannot discount the fact that some unscrupulous officials running in next year’s elections are ordering Torres to collect campaign funds from sugar smuggling,” said Hicap.

Luisita farmworkers slam Aquino’s consistent defense of Virgie Torres

PR TORRES3FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 24, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Farmworkers dared President Benigno Aquino III today to immediately order the filing of appropriate charges against ex-LTO Chief Virginia Torres, instead of functioning like an unabashed apologist for his embattled Kabarilan.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Deputy Secretary General Ranmil Echanis criticized Aquino for issuing statements echoing Torres’s sentiments and propping her “pitiful predicament” as she came under fire for alleged sugar smuggling and influence-peddling at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Aquino was quoted in news reports as saying that Torres “is considering suing her detractors” because “accusations against her were too much for her to take.”

“Why is Aquino now acting as Virgie Torres’s spokesperson and legal adviser? When Aquino says that  the supposed ‘wrongdoers’ must be punished, is the haciendero president referring to the persons besmirching his loyal Kabarilan’s reputation?” Echanis asked.

“We support the calls to dig deeper into this sugar smuggling issue. Malacanang and Aquino have so far engaged only in cover-ups and damage control. The thousands of affected sugar workers and supposed land reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita want to see firm action and decisiveness from government in handling influential persons like Torres,” said Echanis.

According to reports from UMA’s local affliate, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, Torres has effective control over at least 200 hectares in Barangay Mapalacsiao alone, land supposedly distributed to farmworker-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

Torres has ostensibly utilized armed goons and local police in destroying farmers’ rice and vegetable plots to ensure continued planting of cane sugar for the Aquino-Cojuangcos’s Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).  The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is also complicit in fresh human rights violations against supposed beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

Victims of violent eviction in Hacienda Luisita have already filed complaints against Torres before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year.  Hundreds of other complaints were also filed against Aquino’s relatives led by Presidential sister Ma. Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz by farmers supported by AMBALA and their legal counsel Atty. Jobert Pahilga of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA).

Among the farmers’ complaints against Torres, her hired goons and conniving local police officers are related to at least four (4) separate bulldozing incidents in Sityo Maligaya, Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita. Some incidents were caught on camera and uploaded by witnesses and the Luisita Watch network on social media.

One video emphasizes the role of local DAR officials in facilitating the destruction of farmers’ crops.

Kung wala talagang kinalaman si Aquino sa mga transaksyon ni Virgie Torres, dapat noon pa ay gumulong na ang mga kaso laban sa mga kamag-anak at kabarilan nya na bumibiktima sa mga magsasaka (If indeed Aquino is not linked to Virgie Torres’s transactions, then the cases against his relatives and shooting buddies committing atrocities against farmers should have immediately prospered)”  according to Rudy Corpuz, AMBALA vice-chairperson.

Complaints of malicious mischief, grave threats and grave coercion against Torres, et al were filed in October 2014 at the DOJ with docket number XVI-INV-14J-00352.

Despite several attempts by AMBALA and UMA to follow-up on the farmworkers’ complaints, the DOJ has yet to act or conduct any serious investigation.

PNoy tries to clear Torres of smuggling – but confirms role in Luisita sham land reform

PR TORRES2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

“Ang isda ay nahuhuli sa bibig” (Fish is caught through the mouth)

Hacienda Luisita farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) stressed that President BS Aquino’s  involvement in the recent sugar smuggling fiasco has become even more apparent with his statements “unfriending” – but at the same time absolving – his Kabarilan and business partner Virginia Torres.

“Kunwari ay hindi na niya kaibigan, pero ipinagtatanggol pa rin nya ang aryendo queen, (Aquino pretends that they’re not friends anymore, but he still openly defends the aryendo queen),” said Rudy Corpuz, AMBALA vice-chairperson, referring to Torres who engages in aryendo or illicit lease agreements victimizing supposed land reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

In a radio interview, Torres herself admitted that she is into leasing land in Hacienda Luisita but said that Aquino knew nothing about it, as she also denied using Aquino’s name to negotiate with customs officials to allow entry of P100 M worth of Thai sugar into the country.

In a special interview with ANC last night, however, Aquino admitted that he knew Torres is now a “sugar planter” and basically tried to clear Torres of sugar smuggling allegations.

“Does it make sense for her to facilitate sugar smugglers that will depress the prices of the product that she has invested in?” Aquino was quoted as saying.

“Even under the pro-landlord CARP, leasing and selling farmlots allocated through land reform is illegal. But influential persons like Torres, with hired goons and even armed state authorities at their disposal courtesy of the haciendero Commander-in Chief no less, can easily swindle and coerce unknowing farmers to enter into these aryendo arrangements,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson.

Sec. 27 of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (CARPER) stipulates that “lands acquired by beneficiaries under this Act or other agrarian reform laws shall not be sold, transferred or conveyed except through hereditary succession, or to the government, or to the LBP, or to other qualified beneficiaries through the DAR for a period of ten (10) years.”

Torres is just one of a select few who act as dummies of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI), leasing lands from farmworker beneficiaries to ensure continued planting of cane sugar. HLI which was established to implement Cory Aquino’s oppressive Stock Distribution Option (SDO) land reform scheme in 1989 is still the official seller of cane sugar to the Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT). Both companies are still owned and controlled by the Aquino-Cojuangco family with other business partners such as the Lorenzos.

“Land distribution” in Hacienda Luisita commenced in 2013, a year after the Supreme Court revoked the SDO and ordered total land distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers.  AMBALA, UMA, and other militant groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis Partylist, have consistently criticized the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Aquino administration for the land distribution process in Luisita, which farmers describe as “a monumental failure” and a “complele sham.”

“Aquino cannot simply wash his hands of this case by ‘unfriending’ Torres. This is mere damage control. We have already filed cases against Torres before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year for illegally evicting farmers and destroying their food crops in favor of sugar cane.  Do we even see any investigation making progress? Aquino may have nominally divested his Hacienda Luisita shares, but it is now confirmed before the public that Torres leases the land and they plant sugarcane together,’” said Corpuz.

Lozande also noted that the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 (SIDA) which Aquino signed last April has also become a “smokescreen” for aryendo, benefitting dummies like Torres. The government through the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the Sugar Regulatory Administration has recently allotted more than Php 2.1 billion to fund sugar block farms.

“These block farms are mostly controlled by financiers and dummies like Torres, as most cane sugar lands have already been leased to them through wholesale coercion and swindling of beneficiaries.  Government boasts that there are 10 block farms in the Luisita alone,” said Lozande.

“Will these funds also pass through Torres to fuel the Daang Matuwid campaign of Roxas in the 2016 elections?”

Will Aquino try Torres for sugar fiasco?

PR TORRES1FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 22, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) are not at all surprised that Aquino’s Kabarilan and well-known crony, ex-LTO chief Virginia Torres, would flaunt her links to the President at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to smuggle around Php 100 million worth of Thai sugar into the country.

“This dictatorship era-style of shameless influence peddling and cronyism, hitting headlines on the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law is not plain coincidence,” according to John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson.

Lozande is also Secretary-General of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros Island.

According to reports, Torres tried to negotiate with customs officials to allow entry of at least 64 containers of Thai sugar by emphasizing her economic activities with the President, particularly in the Aquino-Cojuangco’s controversial Hacienda Luisita sugar estate. Torres allegedly said “I lease land and we plant together.”

Torres’s intimations on her links with the President and Hacienda Luisita are all true. Since early last year, the media already ran reports from UMA and its local affiliate in Tarlac, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), exposing Torres’s hand in the Aquino administration’s fake land distribution in  Hacienda Luisita.

Aside from being “Casino Queen,” Torres is also ‘aryendo queen’ in Hacienda Luisita. Aryendo is the practice of illicit lease agreements brokered by dummies like Torres for the Aquino-Cojuangcos to maintain control of sugarcane production despite supposed land reform.

Incidents of violent eviction and bulldozing of farmers’ food crops have also involved the ‘aryendo queen’ and her goons in Barangay Mapalacsiao, where Torres has gained control over at least 200 hectares of land, according to AMBALA.

“Impunity in Hacienda Luisita is so high, we are practically under Martial Law. These lease agreements are illegal even by the provisions of the pro-landlord CARP – but did we see the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) conduct any investigation on Torres? Farmworkers filed cases against Torres at the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year but the victims’complaints are now just gathering dust,” said Rudy Corpuz, vice chairperson of AMBALA-UMA.

“Will Aquino investigate and prosecute Torres this time? The people might as well arrest and try Aquino himself,” said Corpuz, also hinting at Aquino’s responsibility for the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre.

“Aquino is only interested in swindling and discrediting farmers, and regaining control of the hacienda where the political power of their landlord clan practically came from,” said Corpuz.

UMA also slammed Malacanang’s attempts to cover-up the whole BOC fiasco. Torres allegedly hinted to customs officials that the funds from smuggled sugar would be used for the coming elections. But BOC officials are now reportedly backtracking their earlier statements, on apparent orders from Malacanang.

“Malacanang seems torn between ensuring elections funds and building up the Liberal Party’s tainted image. No amount of spin and damage control can save the administration’s bet for the 2016 presidential elections, Mar Roxas, from this new scandal,” said Lozande.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s own figures, sugar smuggling amounts to a whopping $18,675,000 every year, affecting small sugar planters and the thousands of their sugar workers across the country.

UMA added that according to USDA estimates, 150,000 to 200,000 tons of smuggled sugar, mostly from Thailand, enter the country annually amounting to Php 3.3 to 4.4 billion pesos. When sold, however, smuggled sugar would cost around Php 7.05 to 9.4 billion.

“Aquino’s patriotic posturings in enacting the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015 to supposedly protect the sugar industry is further exposed with this Torres sugar smuggling fiasco. SIDA’s Php 2 billion budget is another likely source of election funds for sugar baron-trapos.”

Lozande ended, “Aquino’s Daang Matuwid is all about corruption and cronysim to favor his imperialist masters and his cabal of Kaklase, Kabarilan, and Kamag-anak. The people are exhausted of this Daang Matuwid and would not want any more of this after 2016.”

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Torres on Aquino: “I lease land and we plant together.” Photo: Inquirer

REAP Mindanao Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations

12015525_758163154310141_771150088_oMindanao has been touted as the ‘Land of Promise’ because of its abundant natural resources and organic assets. Almost a hundred years since this promise of development was ushered in by foreign agricorporations and plantations in Mindanao, the peoples of this war-torn island still wallow in the backward and impoverished conditions plaguing the rest of the Philippine countryside.

This island south of the Philippines is home to more than half of the total estimated mineral wealth in the country. Since the 1920s, Mindanao has also been host to vast plantations of raw materials and export crops controlled by intrusive transnational, multinational and conniving local agribusiness firms.

The island hosts the largest rubber, banana and pineapple plantations in the country. Giant fruit companies Del Monte, Sumifru and Dole’s plantations encroach peasant communities and ancestral lands of indigenous peoples or lumad in Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Compostela Valley and Davao provinces. The island also boasts of about one (1) million hectares of grasslands that are now gradually being transformed into oil palm estates such as those in Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Caraga and Northern Mindanao region.

Vast tracts of land in Mindanao remain targets for expansion of the world’s biggest agribusiness companies operating these plantations. The neoliberal design of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and contract agriculture through various agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs) sanctioned by state policy further highlight the dismal failure of agrarian reform in the country. The unbridled expansion of these plantations – now at an alarming and unprecedented rate covering tens of thousands of hectares only during the past few years – has pushed Mindanao’s peoples deeper into poverty.

Mindanao is a land whose peoples are deprived of their right to land and life, whose peasants and indigenous tribes are driven off their lands to make way for disastrous economic programs. In truth, plantations bring only false promises of development and superficial growth founded upon plunder and exploitation.

Issues surrounding agricultural plantations in Mindanao

Landless agricultural workers toiling these plantations remain dirt poor – exposed to hazardous working conditions, slave-like wages and brutal repression.  Furthermore, plantations endanger whole communities with the adverse health and environmental effects of crop conversion and massive use of agrochemicals.

Resistance is the people’s logical response to harsh conditions and atrocities brought about by agricultural plantations in Mindanao. The peoples’ legitimate grievances often fall on deaf ears. Mindanao is a land militarized to allow for the continued plunder of its minerals, energy potentials and land resources by a powerful few.

Issues surrounding the existence and continued unbridled expansion of vast agricultural plantations in Mindanao remain unaddressed. The war for plunder is often an obscured aspect in the discussion of the centuries-old armed conflict in Mindanao. The dominance of agricultural plantations in Mindanao has not been scrutinized through public debate, principally with regard the question of national patrimony, agrarian reform, social justice, sustainable development and the environment.

Despite the hundreds of thousands of hectares of land devoted to plantations in Mindanao, pressing social and environmental issues surrounding these giant agribusiness ventures ironically seem too small. These issues are deliberately hidden from the public eye.

The REAP Mindanao Network

Through the initiatives of people’s organizations, concerned institutions, advocates and affected communities and sectors, a national action network will be established as a coordinating center to actively synergize efforts and struggles against the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao. Thus, the Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network) will also serve as coordinating center to create public awareness on critical issues related to Mindanao plantations.

The network aims to gain broad local and international support and will utilize various strategies and forms of engagement such as forums, dialogues, policy advocacy, social media presence, solidarity with workers, communities, consumers and other stakeholders, public mobilization, and effective mass actions.

Our calls

1. End land monopoly, landgrabbing and dispossession. Stop the dislocation and marginalization of peasant and indigenous peoples’ orlumad communities. Advocate for a genuine land reform to counter failed land reform policies which legitimize onerous public-private partnerships (PPPs) and agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs) that allow for the aggressive and unbridled expansion of plantations.

2. Respect for life, livelihood, traditional beliefs and culture of indigenous peoples’ or lumad communities affected by the intrusion of agricultural plantations. Uphold their right to self-determination and right to defend their ancestral domain.

3. Uphold agricultural workers’ welfare against retrenchment, contractualization and other forms of flexible labor, slave-like wages, health and work hazards and inhuman working conditions in plantations and related mills, factories and packaging plants. Attend to issues of child labor and the conditions of women in the workplace.

4. End impunity and uphold the peoples’ civil and political rights. Stop extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, and threats against peasant and labor leaders and environmental advocates. End trade union repression, violent demolition, harassment, displacement and militarization of peasant and lumad communities to make way for agricultural plantations.

5. Stop environmental degradation and ecological destruction brought about by the expansion of plantations. Crop and land use conversion, deforestation, use of heavy equipment and rampant use of chemicals and pesticides for plantations result in land, air and water pollution, massive soil erosion, and increased vulnerability of communities during natural calamities.

6. Highlight the agriculture sector’s crucial role in achieving genuine national development through genuine land reform, national industrialization and other sustainable and pro-people measures. Tackle food security and food sovereignty issues and critique state policy allowing foreign big businesses to dictate national agricultural production with targets and priorities conflicting with the country’s actual food needs. Bring attention to communities suffering hunger due to crop conversion, disappearance of staple crops and native seeds, and destruction of traditional food sources.

About the convening organizations

1. Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) is an aggrupation of Catholic men and women religious, priests, and lay people working for the rural poor—farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolks and indigenous peoples—for genuine land reform and the fullness of life. It is a Mission Partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP).  RMP-NMR is the main convener of the Conference. The RMP in Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) acts as the initiator of the Network and will serve as the Network secretariat.

2. Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement) is a democratic and militant movement of landless peasants, small farmers, farm workers, rural youth and peasant women. It has effective leadership over a total of 1.3 million rural people with 65 provincial chapters and 15 regional chapters nationwide.

3. Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Federation of Agricultural Workers) established in 2005 is the national progressive center of unions, federations, associations, and organizations of agricultural workers in vast monocrop estates and agricultural plantations, advancing social justice, genuine land reform, and national industrialization.

4. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTHUR) is a labour rights service institution that was established in 1984 by group of religious people, labour rights advocate and trade unionists to engage the state and capitalist’s human rights violations not with an equally evil force but with awareness that strength and emancipation lies in the hands of workers.

Be a part of the REAP Mindanao Network, join the launching!

The Network will be launched during the National Conference on Plantations in Mindanao on 28 October 2015 (9am) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. The Conference will gather around 300 individuals from agricultural plantation-affected communities of Mindanao, national people’s organizations, concerned institutions and advocates to discuss the issue, come up with official analysis and agree on common points of action.

Interested? Contact us at uma.pilipinas@gmail.com for a copy of the invitation and other related documents.

Lumad, peasant killings not Aquino policy? Let’s ask Luisita farmworkers

PR LUMAD

PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2015

Responding to a reporter’s query on the spate of killings of indigenous peoples or lumads in Mindanao, BS Aquino nonchalantly said: “There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country.” What to expect from a haciendero president who is himself culpable for the gruesome massacre of farmworkers in their own backyard, Hacienda Luisita, more than ten years ago?

What’s happening in peasant and lumad communities infinitely speaks louder than Aquino’s incoherent ramblings. It is shocking that Aquino still has the temerity to speak of his government serving the people, while his regime is awfully busy pandering to insatiable business interests of private enterprises, giant multinational firms and his landlord kind in Hacienda Luisita, in Mindanao, and all other spots in the country coveted by plunderers.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), its local affiliates and the vast number of agricultural workers specially those toiling for plantations in Mindanao, stand in solidarity with the lumads and vow to fight state-sponsored attacks against our land and life. It is not only foreign large-scale mining firms which have encroached on ancestral lands of indigenous peoples but also giant agricorporations which are now geared toward aggressive expansion of export crop plantations in Mindanao.

Aquino may say that outright killing is not his policy, but he is unmistakably zealous in promoting and implementing neoliberal policies and hosting imperialist charades such as the Obama visit and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings culminating in November. Aquino is fully aware that disastrous economic prescriptions imposed by imperialist globalization have been slowly killing Filipino workers and peasants.

The same Stock Distribution Option (SDO) mode of “land reform” already exposed and revoked in Hacienda Luisita, and several other mutations of this flawed non-land transfer scheme, is still in effect in vast haciendas and plantations victimizing millions of peasants. These Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVAs) allow for the reconcentration of lands back to big landlords and the furious intrusion of giant multinational plantations into peasant communities and ancestral domain of lumads.

According to Anakpawis Partylist, peasants comprise an alarming majority – 198 out of 229 – of the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK) under Aquino. Of these peasant EJK victims, 55 are lumads.

Before the recent killings of Manobo leader Dionel Campos, Bello Sinzo and Emerito Samarca of the Alcadev lumad school in Surigao del Sur, or of the massacre of five Manobos in Pangantucan, Bukidnon – there was Gilbert Paborada, the Higaonon leader who was killed in 2012 to make way for ABERDI oil palm plantations in Opol, Misamis Oriental. Marcel Lambon, another Higaonon leader of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon was gunned down by paramilitary forces in 2014 also because of his stance against oil palm expansion.

Earlier this year, Tata Biato of the Manobo-Pulangihons organization Tindoga, was shot dead by goons of the Rancho Montalvan firm of the Lorenzos. Two other lumads, who were with Biato to attend to their bungkalan or land cultivation area, were wounded.  Organized peasants and agricultural workers, some of them also lumads, are targets of killings and harassment related to agrarian disputes and trade union repression.

There is indeed “a campaign to go after criminals,” Aquino says. In the Philippine countryside, it is a perpetual counter-insurgency drive now recycled as Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. Is this the reason why the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – perpetrators of the massacre of lumads in Paquibato District, Davao City only last June – is the same army unit responsible for the massacre of farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita more than ten years ago?

Is it mere coincidence that Gen. Ricardo Visaya – implicated in several cases of lumad killings and harassment of agricultural workers in Dole’s pineapple plantations in Mindanao – was also the ground commander responsible for the carnage at the sugar workers’ picket line in front of the gates of the Cojuangco-Aquinos’s Central Azucarera de Tarlac in 2004? What is this alarming spate of killings but a war for plunder, a campaign to silence dissent and usher in the pillagers? Is it not Aquino’s policy to kill those “unruly” lumads and peasants who get in his way? Why not ask us Luisita farmworkers?

Rudy Corpuz
Vice-Chairperson, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA-UMA)

Ranmil Echanis
Secretary General, UMA

c/o Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
#56  K-9 St. West Kamias, Quezon City
Tel. 799-2009
uma.pilipinas@gmail.com

Delano @ 50: Continue to Tell the History Erased from our Books

delano-50-statement-001

For Immediate Release: September 7, 2015
Reference: Ian Jerome Conde, Deputy Secretary-General
Anakbayan New Jersey (510) 861-1477

New Jersey — On the United States’s pseudo-”Labor Day,” Anakbayan New Jersey acknowledges that the workers’ fight against capitalism still continues. September 8 tomorrow will be 50 years of celebrating the farm workers movement that has been engraved in History. But long before the United Farm Workers (UFW) formed, there existed Filipino Americans that came together to combat the mistreatment of workers in California’s Central Valley. These valiant Filipino compatriots created the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) under the AFL-CIO merger.

This was the beginning of the burgeoning Farm Workers Labor Movement. This led to the Non-Union Grape Boycott, which lasted from 1965-1970. Prior to the Delano Grape Strike, many Filipino farmworkers were already organizing and building collective power. Filipinos in America have had a long history of resistance. When Filipinos first settled in Hawaii, labor organizers like Pablo Manlapit waged strikes against their employers for better working conditions. These organizers have continued the legacy of the Filipinos that preceded themselves in the Philippines; the Delano Manongs are extensions of people like Andres Bonifacio, members of the Katipunan, and other Filipinos that have resisted domination and oppression.

As members of Anakbayan New Jersey, we connect the struggles of the past to the present day. Just like the workers today that are sent into the diaspora or trafficked due to the Labor Export Policy, the Delano Manongs are early examples of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) phenomenon since Martial Law. Many Filipinos leave the Philippines every day for economic opportunity. Those of which were contracted to work in the fields of California and the canneries of Alaska. These migrant workers worked season to season. TODAY, the current government of the Philippines coins modern day OFWs today, as the “Bagong Bayanis” or “New Heroes.” Filipinos leave at an average of 6000 per day. We must ask ourselves why the Delano Manongs worked without contract protections and harsh working conditions and why our fellow kababayans need to find work outside of the Philippines. The Three Basic Problems of U.S. Imperialism, Feudalism, and Bureaucrat Capitalism are the root causes for why people like Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, and Pete Velasco had to migrate to the Belly of the Beast, the United States of America.

Anakbayan New Jersey celebrates 50 years of Filipinos who have fought for social justice and have challenged the superstructure of capitalism. As a comprehensive mass organization of the National Democratic movement, we the youth are aligned and joined at the hip with the workers. In Jersey City, we have a workers organization, FIWOP (Filipino Immigrant Workers Organizing Project), spearheading the issues of wage theft, minimum wage, and human trafficking. As AWOC has gallantly confronted Schenley Industries and the DiGiorgio Corporation, they worked with the the Mexican-American farm workers to unite against the unfair treatment of farm workers in Delano. AWOC, led by Larry Itliong, worked side by side with César Chávez-led NFWA (National Farm Workers Association). AWOC & NFWA’s commitment to solidarity is a shining example of how we today shall be conducting in building the united front.

We honor the organizing done by our predecessors by continuing to tell the story that has been erased from our history books. We acknowledge the contribution of Filipinos in Delano to not just be “Filipino American” history but a contribution to U.S. history! To our fellow sibling organizations, members of the Anakbayan/League of Filipino Students chapters, and MIGRANTE International and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) in the West Coast who attended BOLD STEP: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike, we are with you in spirit. The legacy of the leaders of the Filipino Farm Workers such as Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, Pete Velasco, and others remains today. As the youth, we must continue to follow their example. As the youth, we will one day be members of the working population and will always continue to fight the ills that plague the masses and the most oppressed in society.

WE MUST NEVER FORGET the contributions of the Delano Manongs! U.S. History textbooks remove our stories and replace it with bourgeois mainstream curriculum.  While legislation exists to ensure the learning of the Filipino Farm Workers such as California’s Assembly Bill 123, we must not rest until it is institutionalized nationwide and carried in practice. As Anakbayan New Jersey, we will ensure the propagation of the Filipino Farm Workers in Delano as part of continuing the radical tradition of resistance against oppression. While Larry Itliong, Philip Vera-Cruz, Pete Velasco, and others are no longer with us, WE are them. NEW Larry Itliongs will emerge; NEW organizers will rise and will continue to arouse, organize, and mobilize for the new society youth will one day inherit.

CELEBRATE OUR ROOTS AND HISTORY

CONTINUE TO STAND UP FOR MIGRANTS AND WORKERS RIGHTS

delano

From left to right (Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco)

Read Anakbayan New Jersey’s original post here.

Haciendero gov’t allots billions for sugar barons, zero for starving workers

PR blockfarm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 3, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 09166114181

Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Mangggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) slammed President BS Aquino’s alter-egos at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for dangling billions of pesos in public funds to finance sugar block farms, a new devious scheme favoring business interests of big sugar barons – or Aquino’s haciendero kind.

“This multi-billion budget will benefit only President Aquino’s kin and other big hacienderos and sugar barons, probably including the Liberal Party and its allies,” said John Milton Lozande, Acting Chairperson of UMA.

According to reports, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, the DAR and SRA administrator Maria Regina Bautista-Martin, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a convergence program on the local sugarcane development program.

The DAR recently announced that it will provide P424.6-million assistance for sugar block farms.  The SRA, meanwhile, allocated P30 million for block farms on top of the DA’s 1.7 Billion block farm budget sourced through the General Appropriations Act of 2015 and the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA).

“Nobody believes thieves like Alcala or Aquino when they say that the sugar block farm program will improve the lives of farmworkers,” said Lozande.

“Only the hacienderos and sugar barons would receive funds from these government agencies because they control the block farms. Even the funding for farm equipment and farm to market roads, which we all know is mired in corruption, could be used by the ruling party for next year’s presidential elections,” he added.

UMA said that the haciendero government of Aquino is most insensitive in publicizing the allocation of billions of pesos in public funds for landlords, while the thousands of farmworkers are currently mired in poverty and hunger due to “tiempo muerto” or dead season, when the sugarcane industry temporarily grinds to a halt for a period of 4-6 months while waiting for the next milling season.

In Negros island, thousands of farmworkers under UMA’s local affiliate, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) conducted a series of protests since July to highlight their plight during “tiempo muerto.” Lozande is also the secretary-general of NFSW.

The DAR meanwhile said that for a three year period, it would fund 99 block farms nationwide including 10 in Hacienda Luisita. “With this plan, the DAR alone is allocating a hefty average of P4.288 million per block farm. What more the funds coursed through the SRA and DA?”

Sugar block farms are consolidation of small farms into 30-50 hectares to take advantage of plantation-scale production. Essentially, block farms are designed to reconcentrate lands back to landlords and their dummies acting as “farm managers.”

“Under block farming, agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) only retain ownership of the lands in paper while they are rehired as farmworkers. Block farming enjoys financing schemes much like various Agribusiness Ventures Agreements (AVAs) such as joint-venture, contract growing, leaseback and others,” said Lozande.

UMA decried that majority of sugar cane farms supposedly distributed under the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) are already back in the hands of big hacienderos and sugar barons.

In Negros Occidental, 80% of the ARBs have had their lands entered into onerous lease agreements with the landlords or big sugar planters, while it is widely believed that most farmworker-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita have had their lot allocations leased to financier-dummies of the Cojuangco-Aquino family at a measly rate of P7,500 per .66 hectares per year.

“Agriworkers know how corrupt Alcala, Aquino, and his whole cabal of hacienderos and trapos in the LP are,” said Lozande. “They will earn the ire of starving farmworkers nationwide come election time.”