BACOLOD CITY – Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Negros-based National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) warned the voting public of perennial “tiempo muerto” if the most despotic haciendero brats and fascist heirs dominate the coming May National Elections.
“Tiempo Muerto” refers to the dreaded dead season in the sugarcane industry, when production temporarily grinds to a halt and farmworkers are left without any source of income for three to six months. This period, which is set to begin in the next few weeks, leads to great suffering and hunger for thousands of sugar workers and their families.
In a media forum at the Negros Press Club today, UMA, NFSW and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) here in Negros bluntly rejected both President BS Aquino’s anointed successor, Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas, and fallen dictator Marcos’s heir and namesake, Fendinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. who is running for vice-president, as they clearly represent “both sides of the same haciendero and fascist coin.”
“Being anti-Marcos does not necessarily mean that one is pro-Aquino or pro-Daang Matuwid and Roxas. Both Mar and Bongbong are despicable representatives of everything that is wrong and rotten in the circus called the ‘Philippine Elections,’ said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.
Roxas is a scion of the landed Roxas-Araneta clan and a professed backer of sugar barons in this region. Mar’s family is involved in land grabbing activities in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and in Mascap, Montalban, Rizal. Bongbong, meanwhile is the unrepentant apologist of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos who aims to distort the people’s memory of the Martial Law regime from 1972-86. Gross human rights violations were committed during this period including the infamous massacre of hacienda workers in Escalante, Negros in 1985.
“As long as despotic landlords and fascists dominate the Philippine political landscape, poverty, hunger and deaths in the countryside will continue to reign. We nevertheless challenge candidates to heed and adhere to the agriworkers’ electoral agenda,” said Ramos
The government estimates the number of sugar workers in the country at around 700,000 with 5 million dependents. UMA member organizations and advocates representing bioethanol and sugar-producing provinces Isabela in Northern Luzon and Bukidnon in Mindanao, were also present to raise the following points for presidential bets:
Implement genuine agrarian reform and the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) authored in the 16th Congress by the Anakpawis Partylist and Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares. Junk all schemes exempting vast landholdings from agrarian reform such as the stock distribution option (SDO), various Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVA) like leaseback, contract growing, corporative scheme; sugar block farming and the illicit and rampant ‘aryendo’ or leaseback scheme.
Increase wages of workers, especially of farmworkers who are among the most underpaid sectors in Philippine society. Ensure humane working conditions, job security and an end to contractualization. Uphold the right to organize and to negotiate with management and employers through collective bargaining agreements. Stop union-busting and state-sponsored repression and harassment.
Stop expansion of agricultural plantations controlled by big local landlords and foreign corporations. Stop liberalization of agriculture. Push for national industrialization. Stop militarization, political killings and criminalization of agrarian disputes. Release all political prisoners including peace consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and resume peace talks to solve the root causes of the armed conflict.
“Tiempo Muerto will continue to be an annual crisis period for sugar workers until we decisively end land monopoly and the feudal and fascist reign of traditional politicians like those that come from the Aquino, Marcos and Roxas clans.”
Ramos added that UMA and its newly-formed Tiempo Muerto media network will closely monitor the pronouncements made by these politicians in mainstream media on their platform and their commitment for the rights and welfare of sugar workers, especially during the elections and the onset of the dead season crisis period.
Please follow @UMApilipinas and @TiempoMuertoPH on Twitter and the hashtag #TiempoMuerto
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 09166114181
Photos by Jen Balora, NFSW-Teatro Bungkal