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?
Vice-Chairperson, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA-UMA)
Secretary General, UMA
c/o Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
#56 K-9 St. West Kamias, Quezon City