The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) continues to seek justice for slain peasant leader Ariel Diaz, who was also a delegate of UMA’s recently-concluded National Sugar Workers Summit held in Quezon City last August 30 – 31. Diaz was shot by unidentified gunmen in his farm in Villa Pereda, Delfin Albano, Isabela, barely a week after the activity, on September 7.
Diaz was the chairperson of DAGAMI, the local chapter of the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Delfin Albano town, and the Inter-municipal Peasant Alliance Against Foreign Landgrabbing in Northern Isabela. Diaz was also part of the UMA organizing team in the said area.
UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos meanwhile welcomed the positive moves of the Duterte government through Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, and the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), to probe the killing of Diaz and the victims of the September 3 massacre of peasants in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
According to Ramos, Diaz was very active in forging sugar workers’ unities during the 2-day sugar summit. “Sugar workers’ issues and demands raised during the summit would be brought up with key government officials and legislators, as well as to the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for consideration in the discussion and forging of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER),” according to Ramos, who also said that copies of sugar workers’ consolidated report and demands would be sent to concerned officials and personalities.
“The killing of Diaz, and the violence and repression against all others before him is due to the same evils that perpetuate widespread poverty, hunger and unrest in the country. Peace cannot be achieved without justice,”said Ramos.
The forging of a CASER is described as the meat of the peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP – or addressing the root causes of armed conflict to attain a just and lasting peace. This was also pointed out by LCP President and Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan, who is also GRP Peace Panel adviser, when he stated that “it is precisely the issue of land that is the central mobilizing force of the almost five-decade armed revolution in the countryside.”
Ramos stated the the centuries-old problem of land monopoly and reign of big landlords and giant local and foreign agri-corporations was brought up during the summit. This includes the massive contract growing being imposed on farmers by bio-ethanol giant Green Future Innovations – Ecofuel Land Development Inc. in Isabela which was among Diaz’s advocacies.
Aside from land reform, the issues of trade liberalization and other destructive neoliberal policies in the sugar industry, slave-like wages, contractualization, diminution of benefits, corruption of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), militarization, political repression and human rights violations that were raised by delegates from Isabela, Tarlac, Batangas, Negros, Panay, Bukidnon, and Davao del Sur are reflected in the consolidated report of the National Sugar Workers’ Summit.