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.
Protests in Negros. Photos courtesy of NFSW.
FOR REFERENCE: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 09166114181
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