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