Pagpupugay kay Kasamang Sol Pillas, Lider ng Migrante at ng Mamamayang Pilipino

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PINAKAMATAAS NA PAGPUPUGAY ANG IPINAPAABOT ng Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) sa buhay at pakikibaka ni Kasamang Sol Pillas, isang magiting na lider ng migrante at ng mamamayang Pilipino.

Katulad ng milyun-milyong Pilipino sa kasalukuyan, napilitan si Kasamang Sol na magtrabaho sa ibayong dagat, partikular sa Hong Kong, sa loob ng 25 mahabang taon bilang isang domestic worker. Namulat siya sa sariling kadusta-dustang kalagayan at sa kondisyon ng kapwa niya migranteng Pilipino na sapilitang lumabas ng bansa dahil sa kalagayan ng lipunang Pilipino na agraryo, atrasado at pre-industriyal o wala pang saligang industriya na maaaring lumikha ng sapat na trabaho at kabuhayan para sa mamamayan.

Naging tanyag na lider si Ka Sol sa Hong Kong at maging sa maikling panahon ng pagbalik niya ng Pilipinas bilang Pangkalahatang Kalihim ng Migrante International, bago siya maagang pumanaw sanhi ng stroke. Isang karangalan para sa amin sa UMA na makilala at makasama si Ka Sol. Mahigpit na nakiisa ang Migrante sa pakikibaka ng mga manggagawang-bukid para sa lupa at hustisya sa Hacienda Luisita.

Personal na nakasalamuha ni Ka Sol ang mga manggagawang-bukid kasama ang iba pang taga-Migrante sa kanilang pakikipamuhay sa Hacienda Luisita. Nakatuwang sila sa pagtatayo ng kubol sa bungkalan ng barangay Mapalacsiao, kung saan personal din nilang nasaksihan ang mga atake laban sa mga magsasaka gaya ng panununog ng kubong pahingahan, at mga hidwaan dulot ng pekeng pamamahagi ng lupa sa pamamagitan ng tambiolo, at iba pang anyo ng panlololoko, pandarahas at pangangamkam na ipinatupad sa ilalim ng rehimeng Aquino.

Muling nakabalik si Ka Sol sa Hacienda Luisita nang maging aktibo ang mga manggagawang-bukid sa pangunguna ng AMBALA at UMA upang ikampanya ang pagliligtas sa buhay at pagpapalaya sa OFW na si Mary Jane Veloso, na anak ng isang sakada sa parehong asyenda. Naging tagapagsalita si Ka Sol sa maikling programa sa Barangay Balete at sa simpleng pagtitipon at misa na inihanda ng mga manggagawang-bukid. Sa mahusay na pamumuno ni Ka Sol at iba pang lider ng Migrante, ay nagtagumpay ang malawak na kilusang masa na nagtaguyod ng kampanya para mailigtas si Mary Jane sa nakatakdang pagpapataw ng parusang kamatayan sa Indonesia.

Magpapatuloy pa ang pakikibakang itinaguyod ni Ka Sol – katuwang ng migranteng Pilipino ang masang manggagawa at magsasaka sa pakikipaglaban para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon hanggang sa mailatag ang isang maunlad na lipunan kung saan hindi na mapipilitan ang isang Sol, ang isang Mary Jane, Flor o sinuman na mangibang-bayan para lamang makamit ang disenteng pamumuhay.

Kahanga-hanga ang desisyon ni Ka Sol na manatili o mag-“for good” na sa Pilipinas at dito na kumilos. Malaki ang aming panghihinayang sa kanyang maagang pagpanaw, ngunit tiyak na mananatili sa puso ng masang magbubukid ang malaking ambag ni Ka Sol sa pakikibaka ng mga migrante at mamamayang Pilipino.

MABUHAY ANG ALAALA NI KA SOL PILLAS, MAGITING NA LIDER NG MIGRANTE
AT NG MAMAMAYANG PILIPINO!

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“Hulaw” affected banana workers demand benefits, end to contractualization

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More than 150 banana workers of multinational fruit giant Dole Stanfilco in Dangcagan and Kitaotao towns in Bukidnon province signed a petition demanding security of tenure and just wages to counter effects of “hulaw” or the lingering drought caused by the El Nino dry spell.

The banana workers are affiliated with the Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (United Farmworkers Organization) or OGYON, a member-organization of the national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

The one-page petition, written in Cebuano, demands the following: (1) Permanent work despite the drought. (2) Subsidies for workers and their families to compensate for lack of work. (3) Withdrawal by workers of their savings or cash bond deposit to the Asiapro Agency so as to help them in their needs especially during this time of calamity. (4) Implement and award leave benefits that the company owes and has long-promised the workers. (5) End contractualization of workers.

Dole employs workers through the Asiapro Agency, which has now reportedly acceded to the demand to return the P10,000 cash bond without terminating the workers. Agency or “cooperative” hiring perpetuates contractualization in vast agricultural plantations in Mindanao.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos said that while the country’s presidentiables have all vowed to end contratualization in the last PiliPinas Debates, concrete legislation co-authored by Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and Rep. Neri Colmenares are still pending in Congress. House Bill 5140 or An Act Prohibiting Contractualization And Promoting Regular Employment was filed by Anakpawis in as early as October 2014.

Bukidnon has been affected by drought since November 2015. Last January, Dole Stanfilco imposed a 3-day work week especially among contractual workers in its Dangcagan plantation because most of its banana plants died due to the drought.

“Today, there is almost no work for us agricultural workers,” lamented June Antiga, UMA National Chairperson and President of OGYON in Dangcagan.

Of more than 400 laborers employed by Dole in the area, only 100 are regular workers. Around 150 have remained in the area while the rest sought odd jobs to support their families during this crisis period. Many of the workers receive a daily wage of P291.00 which means that for a period of 15 days they should get a measly P1,700.00. However, with deductions, workers take home only P1,100.00.

“This amount covers the family living wage of P 1,088 – a day. How can farmworkers possibly stretch this amount to cover the remaining 14 days?” asked Antiga.

Ramos meanwhile stressed that Dole Stanfilco, which is now under Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp., still earns billions in profits despite the decrease in production volume in the fresh food business caused by the drought. Dole Stanfilco registered a net profit of P2,243,665,216.63 from April to December 2015.

“There is no reason to let workers bear the brunt of hulaw, and face this grave calamity without support from its employers or the government. Dole Stanfilco must not run from its responsibility to the workers who have long been exploited by this company,” said Ramos.

Ramos also called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to ensure that agricultural workers would still be provided wages and benefits by employers even during this drought period.

“Agricultural workers make these plantations earn billions in profits due to their hard toil. In times of calamities, it is but the duty of the employers and the government to make sure that workers are compensated and given proper assistance,” said Ramos.

Farmworkers led by OGYON-UMA were among around five thousand drought-affected peasants who marched to the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol in Malaybalay City last week to demand immediate food relief. The April 1 Kidapawan Massacre has now sparked uproar for food and justice in other El Nino-hit areas in Mindanao such as Pagadian City, Koronadal City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Davao City, where peasants replicated the Kidapawan barricade to protest government’s criminal negligence and to demand that concerned agencies immediately release calamity aid for starving peasants.

“The situation in Mindanao and the rest of drought-stricken areas in the country dramatically illustrates the utter failure of government’s bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Farmers suffer from hunger and poverty even without El Nino because they are still bound by chains of feudal and semi-feudal oppression in the countryside,” said Ramos.

REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181

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Peasants march for Land, Food and Justice in Bukidnon. (Bulatlat)

#TiempoMuerto | Sugar workers cry for food, land and justice as annual tiempo muerto sets in

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Jerome Aba of Suara Bangsamoro and Arlene Amar (from L), survivors of the Kidapawan massacre join sugar workers led by UMA in demanding justice, genuine land reform and food aid amid tiempo muerto and El Nino (bulatlat)

Kidapawan massacre survivors joined sugar workers under the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in launching the Tiempo Muerto campaign against hunger and poverty in a media forum in Quezon City today.

Tiempo muerto or dead season, refers to the annual crisis period when the sugar industry temporarily grinds to a halt and farmworkers are left without any stable source of income.

According to the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros Island, the public is largely unaware of the plight of the thousands of farmworkers during this dead season, and the hunger and poverty experienced by around five (5) million of their dependents.

Tiempo Muerto also refers to a media monitoring project launched by UMA in Bacolod City last March, which aims to to gather and evaluate the quality of mainstream media reports on poverty and hunger during this crisis period. Tiempo Muerto hopes to spur positive change in media practices and the public’s understanding and appreciation of sugar workers’ plight during this crisis period, which is now aggravated by drought caused by El Nino. The project is supported by the Canada-based World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos acknowledged the role of media people who are dilligently covering recent events in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, where drought-stricken farmers demanding food aid were violently dispersed by police last April 1. UMA joins the call of peasants across the country who are now clamoring for food, land and justice.

“Without our fearless media practitioners who gathered firsthand information, actual footage and photos of the Kidapawan massacre, the public would not have known of this tragedy. The farmers’ call, Bigas, Hindi Bala (Rice, Not Bullets), would be muted by the usual barrage of so-called ‘official information’ from the government’s communications offices,” said Ramos.

“The Tiempo Muerto project is a challenge to our friends in the media to cover the issues and uncover important matters hounding the sugar industry and its productive forces. Sugar workers who still endure slave-like conditions even after decades of the government’s land reform promises must not stay invisible in mainstream media. The media can help sugar workers illuminate the public; we must all draw inspiration from the toiling masses’ struggle for genuine land reform, food security and true economic development,” said Ramos.

Ramos added that “(UMA) likewise aims to shake this haciendero regime and its cabal of yellow spin doctors and trolls lurking in corporate and social media,” the source of lies, misinformation and dirty tricks to boost the campaign of Liberal Party presidentiable Mar Roxas, who hails from a family of sugar barons in Western Visayas. Roxas has consistently pushed his family’s landlord interests in national politics.

“Kidapawan should not be another Escalante, Mendiola or Luisita. The farmers who produce food for our people demand genuine land reform and justice,” said Ramos.

For news stories to be easily monitored by this project, UMA encourages journalists and alternative media groups to use its official hashtag #TiempoMuerto when sharing content on farmworkers issues and news on the sugar and bioethanol industry online. Follow @TiempoMuertoPH on twitter. Tiempo Muerto is also on Facebook.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 21, 2016

Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0196.611.4181

 

 

Drop all charges against Kidapawan farmers! Justice and immediate relief for drought victims now!

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Peasant groups led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Anakpawis call for justice for victims of the Kidapawan massacre at the Senate grounds today. (KMP)

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today expressed its strong demand to authorities to drop all charges against farmers nabbed by police in the aftermath of the violent April 1 dispersal in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. UMA urged the Senate, which is conducting a second hearing on the April 1 incident today, to work for the immediate distribution of relief to all peasants suffering from drought.

“It is never justified to use bullets against farmers demanding immediate relief from drought and hunger. National government had supposedly already allotted billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money to address the impact of El Nino,” said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.

UMA also stressed that sugar workers are now also suffering hunger due to tiempo muerto or the dead season in the sugar industry).

“Drought is very real not only in North Cotabato but in many other places in the entire country. Hunger is rampant among millions of peasants, even without a state of calamity. Today more than half a million sugar workers are already enduring effects not only of drought but also of the tiempo muerto or dead season that lasts from 3 to 6 months every crop year,” Ramos said.

UMA laments that national government has not appropriated any amount for sugar workers, even with Php 2 billion funding appropriated for the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015. Even the Socio-Economic Project Fund (SEPF) under the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) only allotted P7,916,307.38 for tiempo muerto projects from 1993 – June 2015 or a measly P344,187 every year.

This means that the SAP’s socio-economic project fund has supposedly benefitted a meager 3.08% of the total number of sugar workers, or 16,765 individuals in a span of 23 years. In July 2013, Anakpawis lawmaker Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap filed House Resolution 116 to investigate the implementation of SAP.

UMA also noted that protest actions in other drought-stricken areas continue to spark. Some local governments are also reportedly granting farmers’ demands and distancing from the arrogance of North Cotabato Gov. Taliño-Mendoza’s and Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista who dismissed the just demand of farmers for food aid, or 15,000 sacks of rice.

In Valencia City, Bukidnon, local government reportedly appropriated 4,200 sacks of rice to 5,000 protesting farmers under the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa (Kasama) Bukidnon, a local affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on April 12. A similar positive development occurred in Salay town of the same province, where the municipal council signed a resolution to release part of the town’s calamity fund on April 15 to 2,000 protesting farmers from eight barangays, after a successful negotiation ensued between the parties.

“We add our voices with other sectors in calling for the immediate release of calamity funds to the farmers and their families in Kidapawan and other areas hit by drought,” said Ramos. UMA also called for the investigation and prosecution of government officials, including Pres. Benigno Aquino and Sec. Proceso Alcala for their negligence and failure to put up appropriate measures to mitigate effects of the El Niño phenomenon, and in providing assistance to those affected.

“Let us not make Kidapawan another Escalante, Mendiola or Luisita, where perpetrators got away scot-free. We push for investigation and prosecution of all officials complicit in the violent dispersal of farmers on April 1.”

UMA, in cooperation with the Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (PATRIA), will hold a media and bloggers forum on the Tiempo Muerto campaign, tomorrow, 10 am at the Sikat Events Venue, 305 Tomas Morato Ave. QC (beside Popular Bookstore) to let farmers from Negros, Hacienda Luisita and Kidapawan tell their own story. “Tiempo Muerto” is also the name of UMA’s media monitoring project with support from the Canada-based World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).  

 

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2016
Reference: Gi Estrada, 0916.611.4181

Aquino-Cojuangco bulldozers threaten Luisita farmers anew

 

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Hacienda Luisita farmers express support for victims of the massacre in Kidapawan. In the backround is the “kubol” or the local headquarters of AMBALA in Barangay Mapalacsiao under threat of demolition.

“Two Cojuangco-Aquinos have won the presidency with the promise to distribute Hacienda Luisita to us farmworkers. But look at what’s happening to us here now.”

The rumbling sound of bulldozers roused Hacienda Luisita farmers from sleep past 10 pm last night, April 18, when Aquino-Cojuangco aides reportedly ordered the complete demolition of collective farms and huts run by a farmworkers organization in Barangay Mapalacsiao.

According to reports from the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), goons under the orders of Arsenio “Arsing” Valentino, a known Aquino-Cojuangco aide and farm administrator were set to demolish AMBALA’s kubol (headquarters) in Barangay Mapalacsiao last night. Several women farmers held vigil to stop the bulldozing.

AMBALA is the local affiliate of the national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

“Hindi natuloy ang pagbuldos ng kubol sa Mapalacsiao, sa pagkakaisa ng mga kababaihan na ipaglaban ang lupa. Kahit gabi na, hindi sila natakot na ipagtabuyan ang mga magbubuldos, (The bulldozing of our hut in Mapalacsiao was averted by the women’s unity to fight for the land. It was very late, but they were not afraid to drive away the goons,” said Florida Sibayan, AMBALA Chairperson.

However, AMBALA also reported that the bulldozers are now on standby and demolition can continue anytime. Gravel and sand has been delivered to the area where a workers’ barracks has been set up for the construction of a new structure in the said disputed area.

UMA noted that this new threat coincides with the fourth anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision for total land distribution in Hacienda Luisita which was promulgated on April 24, 2012.

Only last month, from March 21-22, more than 20 hectares planted mostly to monggo (mung bean) and other food crops in the same area have been destroyed by 8 tractors manned by goons reportedly hired by Valentino, and another known Cojuangco-Aquino aide, Buena Timbol.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos lamented that “President BS Aquino does not give a damn about these illegal activities in his own backyard. He didn’t even say anything about farmers killed and hurt in Kidapawan.” President Aquino was among respondents in the Hacienda Luisita massacre case filed by survivors and kin of victims, a case which was “killed” or junked by the Ombudsman twice during Aquino’s reign.

Anakpawis lawmaker Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap revived his call to investigate bogus land distribution implemented by Aquino and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Hacienda Luisita. As early as August 2013, Anakpawis authored House Resolution No. 163, directing the House Committee on Agriculture to conduct an inquiry, after reports of fraudulent processes and harassment of farmers hit the news. In October 2103, Anakpawis, Rep. Neri Colmenares and the rest of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also introduced House Resolution 417 to hold investigations regarding the highly questionable land survey of Hacienda Luisita.

“The DAR’s dubious land survey and mode of distribution via tambiolo raffle draws in highly militarized ceremonies laid the basis for the swindle of supposed beneficiaries and the shameless landgrabbing and eviction happening now in Hacienda Luisita,” said Ramos.

Other than this incident, on June 25, 2014, the DAR itself through its Provincial Agrarian Reform Office led by Atty. Jose Eduardo Narcisco, with assistance from fully-armed policemen led by SPO3 Dela Cruz of the Tarlac City PNP assigned at the Mapalacsiao precinct, and Bgry. Capt. Edison Diaz of Lourdes (Texas) village, led the destruction of food crops and fruit trees in the same area in Hacienda Luisita.

The DAR is also instrumental in the illegal arrest, smear campaign and filing of trumped-up charges against Hacienda Luisita farmers who were slapped with violation of RA 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law – for cultivating the land promised by agrarian reform.

In 2014, complaints or countercharges were filed by farmers at the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the perpetrators and other members of President BS Aquino’s family who are involved in such atrocities against the farmers. But up to now, no action has been taken by authorities.

“Now they are wooing us to vote for someone who will continue their ‘Daang Matuwid.’ Are they referring to a ‘straight path’ where farmers are run over by rumbling bulldozers?” ended Sibayan.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 19, 2016
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181

 

 

#BigasHindiBala | Release detained Kidapawan farmers now!

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Militant groups led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a picket-protest at the Department of Justice today to demand to immediate and unconditional release of all farmers detained in relation to April 1 Kidapawan Massacre.

Here is UMA’s appeal to DOJ:

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URGENT APPEAL FOR THE IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF DETAINED FARMERS IN KIDAPAWAN, NORTH COTABATO

 

HON. EMMANUEL L. CAPARAS
Acting Secretary
Department of Justice, Manila

HON. CAPARAS,

Greetings!

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the national center of unions, federations and organizations  of agricultural workers in the country and its member-organizations namely the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) of Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros Island, and Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrero nga Nagkahiusa (OGYON) in Bukidnon have all expressed our condemnation of the bloody dispersal by Philippine National Police (PNP) elements of hungry farmers demanding El Nino calamity aid in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato on April 1, 2016, which resulted in the death of at least 2 persons and the wounding of many others.

Even before this incident, the thousands of farmers who massed up in Kidapawan City have experienced intimidation, red-tagging and demonization by the local government and state forces who wish to undermine and downplay their just demands and simply disperse the human barricade. But even after widespread public outrage over the Kidapawan Massacre, “Martial Law” – era hamletting, food and medicine blockade were reportedly implemented in Kidapawan.  Harassment and intimidation of protesters and advocates in the aftermath of this carnage continue up to this day.

At least 78 persons, majority are farmers from North Cotabato, were arrested. According to Karapatan,  45 men, 29 women, and four minors were rounded up by police. While the minors have been reportedly released, among those still detained there are three (3) pregnant women and six  (6) senior citizens.  There are also two (2) health workers arrested for helping the victims. At least seven (7)victims of frustrated killing, those who sustained gunshot wounds and other serious injuries, were held under hospital arrest and are now also slapped with spurious charges of direct assault upon persons of authority and frustrated homicide. The farmers are  required to post bail in the amount of at least Php 12,000 each for temporary liberty. As calamity victims, these farmers cannot even buy rice to feed their families.

We thus call for the immediate and unconditional release of Kidapawan farmers who were illegally arrested and detained after demanding from the provincial government of North Cotabato in Mindanao the release of rice supply as aid to farmers in drought-stricken communities.  We urge the Department of Justice to take immediate action as farmers seek justice for their dead and wounded kin.

Sincerely,

 (sgd)

DANILO RAMOS
Secretary General

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#BigasHindiBala | Mar’s call for “deeper investigation” should probe his role in Kidapawan massacre

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Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) slammed Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas for asking “silly and malicious questions” amid a Senate investigation and widespread public outrage against the Kidapawan massacre.

Roxas, who was reportedly campaigning a few hours away from Kidapawan in Koronadal and other Cotabato municipalities on the fateful day of the massacre, received flak from agriworkers with his condescending line of questioning to victims: “who financed the protesters?”

“Mar, wag mong ismolin ang mga magsasaka (Mar, don’t belittle the ability of farmers),” said UMA Secretary General Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos.

Nakita po natin sa mga testimonya sa Senado ang kakayahan naming mga magbubukid na magsuri, magplano at kumilos nang organisado sa gitna ng paghambalos ng kalamidad na tagtuyot, (We saw in the Senate testimonies, our farmers’ ability to analyze our situation, plan and take organized action amid of crippling effects of the El Nino calamity),” said Ramos.

“That the farmers can organize huge demonstrations such as the Kidapawan barricade should not be a surprise to elitists like Mar and other haciendero brats occupying Malacanang. Roxas should review his Philippine history, so that he may learn that we peasants have a long history of militant struggle and resistance since the Spanish colonial time, a history of struggle that his landlord kind has since tried to brutally suppress,” said Ramos, slamming Roxas’s insinuation that  farmers were “manipulated” by his rival politicians or that armed communist rebels have “infiltrated” the mass action in Kidapawan.

Jerry Alborme, leader of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in North Cotabato testified that they held consultations with their members in different municipalities in January to assess the effects of El Nino in the province, which was then declared under a state of calamity. He said that around 27,000 farmers were already reeling from the effects of the drought and crops worth Php 288 million have been destroyed.

“Instead of questioning the motives of our hungry farmers, Mar should come clean on his actual role in this carnage – did you pressure Gov. Lala to conduct ‘clearing operations’ so that your entourage may pass the Davao-Cotabato highway for your scheduled little sortie in Kidapawan?” Ramos challenged Roxas.

Roxas and Mendoza were photographed doing a “beso-beso” in a LP sortie in Kabacan, North Cotabato, around 30 kilometers away from Kidapawan by local media DXVL Radio ng Bayan KOOL 94.9 FM, which also reported on April 1 that Mendoza told the crowd that the farmers’ demand for 15,000 sacks of rice is “impossible.”

“An impartial, ‘deeper investigation’ as he calls it, should definitely look into Mar Roxas’s role in Kidapawan. The farmers have peacefully assembled for three days before violence was unleashed by police against farmers. Roxas’s presence in Cotabato at that time must not be a mere coincidence,” said Ramos.

Sugar workers, other drought victims also mount protests

Meanwhile, in Bacolod City, peasants and farm workers under KMP-Negros and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros Island, held a protest march and picket-dialogue at the local Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office to call for justice for victims of the Kidapawan massacre. Protests were also held yesterday by DAGAMI-KMP in Jones, Isabela, another province hit by drought.

The NFSW assailed the DAR for its slow response to land disputes involving agrarian reform beneficiaries who are harassed and driven away by landlords and land speculators running the “aryendo” system. Sugar workers echoed the call “Bigas, Hindi Bala” (Rice, Not Bullets) and “Lupang sakahan, hindi libingan (farm lands, not burial grounds) as they decried unabated killings and human rights violations against farmers.

“In Negros, sugar workers suffer from the yearly tiempo muerto (dead season) or off-milling season, when sugar production temporarily stops. This year, it is aggravated by drought caused by El Nino,” said Ramos.

“Our call to implement genuine land reform, genuine support for the agriculture sector and national industrialization will ease the effects of calamities and ultimately end hunger and tiempo muerto,” said Ramos.

UMA will join global action in support of Kidapawan farmers today, April 8. In Manila, mass actions will be held in Plaza Miranda and Mendiola.

Click for the link to the original DXVL post on LP sorties in Cotabato.

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Protests in Negros. Photos courtesy of NFSW.

FOR  REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181
Follow @UMApilipinas on Twitter
Email: uma.pilipinas@gmail.com

 

Plantation expansion causes grave rights violations in a Bukidnon community—investigative mission

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One of the empty bullet shells recovered by mission participants.

 

Land grab for plantation expansion has resulted to grave human rights violations in Barangay Sinangguyan, Don Carlos, Bukidnon.

“Our major finding is the usurpation of the land tilled by farmers for the purposes of the establishment of a corporate plantation,” said Rev. Fr. Christopher Ablon, spokesperson of Karapatan-Northern Mindanao Region.

“Because of this interest, indigenous families who have entered into an agreement with the plantation – that of the Lapanday Foods Corporation, according to the indigenous families we have talked with – have forced their right on the area, which they claim is a part of their ancestral lands. The problem is that they already positioned themselves inside this area even before they are able to secure proper documents. Worse, they were instituted through the violence of a security agency,” Father Ablon continued.

Human rights violations, killing

The investigative mission conducted on April 4, 2016 had documented several human rights violations including one killing. Other cases documented were incidences of threat, harassment and intimidation, indiscriminate firing, destruction or divestment of properties, violation of children’s rights, illegal search and seizure, forcible evacuation, violation of domicile, and coercion.

The struggle of the farmers to keep the land that had been released to them through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has been long. Already, one life had been claimed by the land dispute. Lauro Algora, the leader of the Sinangguyan Farmers’ Organization, was killed in October 2015 while on his way to photocopy his land titles that was to prove his rightful claim to the land.

Despite holding certificates of land ownership award, the farmers’ right to the land has been challenged by the Aboy-Daguiwaas clan for the past years. The farmers insist that they have prior rights to the land even if the entire area is part of an ancestral domain.

“If we look at other CADT [Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title] areas, we see that individuals who have already secured private titles before the passage of the IPRA [Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act] are respected and are not forced out of their lands,” said Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, agreeing that the claim of the farmers is legitimate. “As long as they respect the culture and traditions of the indigenous community, they can remain. This is provided in the law. This is also a cultural practice among our ancestors to welcome anyone who needs to till the land to provide food for their families.”

No bias against IPs

Datu Jomorito clarified that the mission team was not holding biases against the indigenous families in the area. “What we are questioning is the motive behind the move to claim the area as their ancestral domain,” he said. “It may legitimately be their ancestral domain but apparently they are not claiming it to develop it themselves but are leasing it to a plantation. Eventually, the indigenous community will still lose their ancestral lands.”

The mission team also clarifies that what is happening is a pitting of the indigenous clan versus the farmers, both victims of the plantation’s move to grab the land.

“There is enough area to accommodate both the farmers and indigenous families,” said Father Ablon. “But the plantation company wants to control everything.”

The mission team also holds accountable the government institutions that have caused this land conflict. “The creation of policies and programs [CARP, IPRA] were designed to create discord among communities and in the end rob them of their rights to their land,” Father Ablon said.

Solidarity action

The entire activity, dubbed ‘Solidarity Action in Defense of Sinangguyan and Other Plantation-Affected Communities of Bukidnon’, was organized by Kasama Bukidnon, Karapatan – Northern Mindanao Region, and the Network Resisting the Expansion of Agricultural Plantation in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network). The Solidarity Action also included a medical mission and a psycho-social session for children aside from its documentation component.

The activity concluded with a solidarity program with representatives from other farming communities giving testimony of their own experiences against government policies and corporate encroachment of their lands. This was meant to encourage the Sinangguyan farmers to fight for their right to their land.###

 

2

The mission’s press conference held April 6 at Cagayan de Oro City. 

April 6, 2016
PRESS RELEASE

For reference:

Jun Benemerito
Secretary General, Kasama-Bukidnon
0905-909-3200

Rev. Fr. Christopher Ablon
Secretary General, Karapatan-Northern Mindanao

Gi Estrada
Secretariat, REAP Mindanao Network
0916-611-4181

Agriworkers decry killings, landgrabs in Bukidnon die-in protest

DIE

APRIL 5, MALAYBALAY CITY — Agricultural workers joined more than a thousand farmers and lumad who staged a die-in protest infront of the Bukidnon Provincial Capitol to seek action regarding pressing issues confronting El Niño-stricken peasant communities in the province.

Agriworkers from the Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa or Ogyon, local affiliate of the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) joined peasants from different communities affected by militarization and landgrab threats for the symbolic protest dubbed ‘Panagtagbo sa mga Katawhan sa Bukidnon Batok sa Plantasyon, Hulaw ug Militarisasyon (Bukidnon Peoples’ Converge against Plantations, Hunger and Militarization).’

The protest is led by the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon (KASAMA-Bukidnon), an organization of farmers in the province affiliated with the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas (KMP).

UMA National Chairperson June Antiga, who is also a local leader of Ogyon in Bukidnon, said that landlessness and state-sponsored repression and militarization of communities and workplaces of the lumad, peasants and agricultural workers is made worse by the extreme El Niño dry spell affecting many parts of Mindanao and the rest of the country.

“The farmers are the backbone of the society because we produce the food we eat. But now, we are just bones. The farmers have nothing to eat,” said Crispin Sinugkit of the agriworkers’ group Ogyon in Impasug-ong town.

Ogyon has consistently demanded higher wages for farm workers in the province, which has always been pegged at slave-like levels. The usual wage of sugarcane workers in Bukidnon is at P150 a day even if the mandated minimum wage in the region is P274 a day.

“El Nino has gravely affected the lives and livelihood of peasants all over Mindanao. But the greater disaster is state-sponsored repression and militarization, as evident in the unabated killings and massacre of our food producers – be it the lumad in their ancestral domain or farmers faced with the violent dispersal in Kidapawan,” Antiga said, referring to the April 1 massacre of North Cotabato farmers demanding calamity aid.

UMA and other national organizations such as Anakpawis, represented by Cong. Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap, also joined a fact-finding mission to probe landgrabbing in Sinangguyan, in Don Carlos town, and unearthed more human rights violations related to landgrabbing.

“The killing of Lauro Algora, leader of the Sinangguyan Farmers’ Organization, is related to usurpation of land tilled by the farmers for the establishment of a corporate plantation in the area,” according to Gi Estrada, UMA media officer and member of the Bukidnon mission. Algora was said to be on his way to photocopy his land titles to prove his rightful claim to the land when he was killed in October 2015.

The mission was organized by REAP-Mindanao, or network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao, with KASAMA Bukidnon and human rights group Karapatan.

Repression in Mindanao continues

Meanwhile in Compostela Valley, REAP-Mindanao also received reports of a strafing incident evening of April 5 at a union encampment purportedly aimed to harass and kill labor leaders in a banana plantation in Pantukan town.

According to the Kilusang Mayo Uno in the Southern Mindanao region (KMU-SMR), the Musahamat Workers Labor Union-NAFLU-KMU has been experiencing vicious and relentless attacks from the military since banana workers decisively set up the union and triumphed in the certification elections as sole and exclusive bargaining agent with plantation management. This latest incident is related to the union’s plans to stage a strike within this month to fight union-busting. A majority “Yes to Strike” vote was clinched among workers last March 28.

UMA reminded authorities that staging mass demonstrations and strikes is within the constitutional right of the people to voice out grievances and demands. “Being affiliated with militant or left-leaning people’s organizations and labor groups must never be made a license to shoot and kill workers and peasants. Would authorities prefer that the people take up arms for ordinary folk to have a fighting chance against armed state elements targetting unarmed civilians?”

“The violence against the farmers and agricultural workers in Mindanao clearly shows the whole world that BS Aquino’s ‘Daang Matuwid’ is a path straight to hell,” ended Antiga.

REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.6114181

 

#TiempoMuerto | Misinformation: Like a bullet that kills compassion

NOTE: We are reposting Ilang-ilang Quijano’s commentary on media reporting regarding the April 1, 2016 massacre of farmers in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, titled “Misinformation: Like a bullet that kills compassion” published by Altermidya, a network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals.

Around 6,000 farmers from different municipalities of North Cotabato province assembled in Kidapawan City to demand calamity aid — rice — for drought victims.  Quijano’s piece laments that with the bloody dispersal, the underreported plight of El Niño-stricken farmers is now being misreported by some mainstream media outfits. A day before the massacre, North Cotabato was even reported to have thousands of “job openings” for sugarcane farmers. 

According to Rappler.com, the hashtag #BigasHindiBala (rice, not bullets) received over 63.5 million impressions, with posts calling for compassion and justice for the farmers. Peasant groups led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) are calling on the public for continued support for the farmers. 

Here is Quijano’s article in its entirety:

TM BIGAS

Like any other Filipino citizen, I am aghast and angered by what transpired in Kidapawan: more precisely, how the police peppered El Niño-stricken farmer with bullets. As a journalist though, I must say that I am equally aghast and angered by the deluge of deliberate misinformation that followed the incident: for me, they’re like bullets that kill the beating heart of critical thought and compassion. Like the police who use high-powered weapons with impunity, so do government officials who sound like trolls, and trolls who sound like government officials use misinformation with impunity.

First thing’s first. We owe these farmers not just the food on our tables. We owe them the fact of our enlightenment that in many areas in Mindanao, scores of our farmers are starving, their crops wilted or destroyed by rats due to the dry spell that started as early as February 2015. In North Cotabato alone, agricultural losses have reached P1 Billion: 50,000 hectares of rice and corn lands and 25,000 farmers have been affected.

With the rationale that calamity funds need to be released, the provincial government declared a “state of calamity” in January this year. Yet two months have passed, and farmers have not received anything. If not for the 5,000 farmers who staged a barricade in Kidapawan City to demand for food aid and the release of calamity funds, we would not have known.

Just like in 2004. Before the strike by Hacienda Luisita farmworkers that similarly turned into a massacre, nobody knew that they were receiving P9.50 a week for toiling all day under the sun, silently generating wealth for the Aquino-Cojuangcos in a hacienda that was the epitome of feudalism and the failure of land reform.

The fact that Philippine realities make their way to public consciousness through paths spilt with blood mean that we should take information seriously. And misinformation even more so.

Aside from provincial and alternative press who covered the protest from the very beginning, the farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan was hardly given any attention by the national media, with only a few publications and GMA 7 issuing reports. That by itself is highly unfortunate but perhaps forgivable, given the reality of “proximity” (to the capital of Manila) as a news value, and for the corporate media, news of hungry farmers staging just another rally is just, as they say, not “sexy” enough.

Then April 1 happened and all of a sudden, El Niño victims became worthy news subjects. And therein lies the tragedy—what was a wide-open opportunity to finally shed light on an underreported, life-and-death issue for thousands of our countrymen was narrowed into Left-bashing that concerned itself not with facts but with unfounded accusations, not with actually feeding empty stomachs but with feeding minds with faulty assumptions that benefit only those who have everything to hide and everything to lose. Because whatever we may think of the actions of the farmers before those fatal shots were fired: they had nothing to hide (unlike those masked SWAT gunmen), and perhaps, nothing else to lose.

The subsequent police raid at the Spottswood United Methodist Center (UMC) proved just that: nothing but a cap and a pouch was found in their possession. Still, the Philippine National Police tried to sell its line that the rally was infiltrated by the New People’s Army (NPA), claiming that an NPA commander—admittedly without a name nor a face, mind you—was arrested. Some publications used this in their headlines and in their story leads, in flagrant violation of one basic journalistic W (Who, pray tell?) Yet another “evidence” of NPA “infiltration” was alleged gunpowder residue found on the body of a dead farmer—the media lapped this up as well, failing to point out that paraffin tests are obsolete and prove nothing, according to forensic experts. They failed to ask as well the most basic question that an autopsy needs to answer: cause of death. Did he indeed die of heat stroke as Senior Supt. Alex Tagum so farcically claimed in an earlier press conference? I see the cop-out: the PNP issued its statement on its autopsy findings through a press release, knowing full well that the media’s standard operating procedure is to generally print it, and ask questions later, even though the damage, generally, has been done.

What we need from the media right now is to ask and investigate the multitude of questions that need urgent answers. Right now, martial law is practically being enforced in Kidapawan City—and like the farmers inside the UMC Compound, truth is being cordoned off and held hostage by state forces. Reporters on the ground are barred by the police from entering hospital premises and talking to victims, some of whom are tied to their hospital beds in handcuffs. Around 80 farmers are still being illegally detained inside a gym, inaccessible to the media as well as health and human rights workers. Hospital staff are under orders from the provincial government not to give out any information about the dead victims. There are reports that the social welfare department has forcibly separated children from their parents. All these need to be reported on and verified.

The fact that the final count of the dead and the cause of their deaths still needs to be established, three days after the massacre, is telling. The fact that the wounded cannot be interviewed nor could immediately be located by their families after the incident is cause for indignation, from both a journalist and a citizen’s point-of-view.

It is as if the basic truths about the incident doesn’t matter—or at least, not until the government can cleanly cover it up. It is as if the public is being made to suffice with the government’s now standard response of Left-bashing, beefed up by an army of trolls that unleash dubious testimony from uncorroborated identities, plus conspiratorial videos from the presidential communications office that prove nothing and give no justification to the massacre. (Of the videos, I do not know which one is more pathetic as an attempt to draw sympathy away from the farmers—a drone footage that shows farmers throwing stones and beating a shielded cop with a stick, cut right before the SWAT moved in for the kill; or a lackluster “protester” eating a biscuit, shot in such a way that doesn’t give any information on where the hell he is, egged on by an interviewer asking leading questions.)

It’s as if it’s okay to say malicious or demeaning things about farmers without even asking them themselves—or even listening to the rare times they are made to speak, through the media that actually do their job by talking to them. It’s as if it’s even intelligent to deduce that because placards condemning the government’s anti-insurgency program are side-by-side with placards asking for rice, it automatically makes the farmers insurgents and makes their call for food aid illegitimate. It’s as if just because President Aquino and Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas can’t find it in their haciendero hearts to sympathize with the farmers, other politicians shouldn’t too. Of course they should—everyone should. It’s called compassion. Something that misinformation is ruthlessly trying to kill.

SAKADA2

About #TiempoMuerto. The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura or UMA’s #TiempoMuerto project monitors sugar workers’ issues and media reporting on hunger and poverty during the dreaded tiempo muerto or dead season. UMA has established media monitors in major sugar-producing areas such as Northern and Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Negros Island and the Visayas and Northern Mindanao. 

Tiempos muertos refers to the off-milling season when sugar production temporarily grinds to a halt and sugar workers are left without any stable source of income. We urge our friends in the media to shed light on issues behind hunger and poverty in the country’s sugarcane areas and amplify the voices of our oppressed sugar workers. This project is supported by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC).