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


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.


Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer, 0196.611.4181




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