FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181
Forty-three years after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos enacted land reform through Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27), agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today said that there is nothing to celebrate but four decades of landlessness, hunger and repression.
“Marcos had the empty PD 27 which sought to justify and deodorize Martial Law, while the Cojuangco-Aquinos will now be remembered as the haciendero clan whose brainchild, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) led to the wholesale massacre of social justice,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson
Lozande was also referring to the actual massacre of peasants in Mendiola under President Corazon Aquino, and to the unsolved killings in the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate, Hacienda Luisita.
Lozande added that the “The CARP was a spineless, stillborn law which they are now still trying to resurrect even after its much-awaited demise.” The CARP which was enacted by the elder Aquino in 1988 finally expired after several failed extension programs (CARPER) on June 30, 2014, under the current BS Aquino III administration.
UMA lamented that electoral platforms for the welfare and interests of workers and peasants are basically left out of public discussion, as traditional politicians, the landed and the moneyed elite, lead the election circus towards 2016.
“The Marcoses and the Aquinos – and their spoiled-brat scions – are now trying to outdo each other in propelling lies regarding their purported ‘legacy’ to the Filipino people.”
“One look at the current situation of farmworkers in sugar haciendas and vast agricultural plantations will tell the public precisely what both ruling clans have accomplished in their years in power.”
Lozande, who is also secretary-general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros Island said that “Chronic hunger, reminiscent of the infamous Negros famine crisis caused by Marcos cronyism three decades ago, is still felt by thousands of farmworkers especially during tiempo muerto or dead season, when work in sugarcane haciendas temporarily grinds to a halt.”
“Hacienda Luisita, meanwhile, is now the playground of Aquino crony Virginia Torres. With fake land distribution and impunity, justice remains elusive to the victims of human rights violations in Luisita,” said Lozande.
“The country’s aspiring leaders must sincerely address the problem of land reform. Otherwise, the public will continue to see these politicians as foolish clowns peddling sugar-coated promises to the masses. Without genuine land reform, peasants and agricultural workers expect nothing but the perpetuation of landlessness, hunger, and fascist repression in the countryside.”
“Marcos allowed for the unbridled entry of foreign corporate giants now lording over the agrichemical farm input industry and vast agricultural plantations in the country, while Aquino’s non-land transfer schemes further institutionalized this mockery of land reform and our national patrimony,” said Lozande.
In Mindanao, giant transnational and multinational firms practically dictate land use over more than 700,000 hectares of land devoted to plantations of export crops and raw materials for foreign-owned enterprises. UMA says that militarization, killings and repression in the workplace and in peasant and indigenous peoples or lumad communities are part of neoliberal dictates of foreign imperialist powers.
To tackle the issue of corporate agricultural plantations, UMA, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.
A National Conference on Mindanao Plantations will be held on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City.