#MarcosNoHero | Marcos was never a hero for agricultural workers

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The national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) joins the clamor of the Filipino people against the burial of Ferdinand Marcos Sr at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in today’s nationwide protests.

UMA is also wary of the possible resurrection of martial rule by the Duterte government: “President Duterte’s decision to let Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani leads to the undue rehabilitation of the late dictator. It seeks to downplay Marcos’s crimes against the Filipino people. It also lets Duterte test the waters for his recent dangerous pronouncements that may actually lead to martial rule if left unchecked,” said Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General.

“Duterte seems to be conditioning the minds of the people that martial law was okay. He even pronounced the revival of the notorious Philippine Constabulary (PC) and of lifting the writ of habeas corpus. We must never forget the lessons of martial law,” stressed Ramos.

UMA scored Duterte for justifying Marcos’s clandestine burial as a ceremony for a former president and solider, or simply a matter of “following the law.”

“We need not debate with the President – we leave it to lawyers and experts to gladly demolish his feeble legal claims. For us ordinary folk, it is quite obvious that Duterte is simply paying off political debts to the Marcoses with this distasteful burial. Duterte may also be aware that he is risking his own political ground. He will earn the wrath of the Filipino people because of his unholy alliance with this clan of known plunderers and murderers,”

“Duterte must be reminded that his promise of change should be towards progress. With the Marcos burial, we seem to be returning to the darkest chapters of our country’s history,” added Ramos.

UMA also emphasized that Marcos shamelessly pandered to US imperialist interests and neoliberal attacks on labor including low wages, contractualization, and the establishment of Export Processing Zones (EPZ’s) where the No Union, No Strike Policy was institutionalized. It was also during Marcos time that the Labor Export Policy was put in place, which started the systemic exodus of Filipino workers to work abroad, including thousands of agricultural workers.

These labor policies worked hand in hand with the implementation of Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27 or fake land reform and cronyism. PD 27 sought to justify Martial Law and only covered tenanted rice and corn lands. Needless to say, PD 27 was a total failure as land monopoly and control of the elite few remains the country’s fundamental problem to this day.

The phenomenon of the growing number of agricultural workers in the country is actually attributed to these neoliberal attacks and the country’s export-oriented, import-dependent economy which hit the pits of dire crisis during Marcos time. Marcos allowed the influx of multinational and transnational corporations in cahoots with his cronies that effected landgrabbing, aggressive expansion of agricultural plantations and monopoly control of the sugar industry.

Peasants and indigenous peoples driven away from their lands and ancestral domain had no choice but to became mere agricultural workers slaving away for foreign corporations, landlords and Marcos cronies.

Marcos cronies such as Antonio Floirendo who lorded over the banana industry in Mindanao, Danding Cojuangco, Roberto Benedicto and others who owned vast sugar haciendas, greatly benefited from their ties with the fallen tyrant. Aside from spawning scams like the coco levy, Masagana 99 and the Green Revolution, it was also during Marcos time that dire crisis shook the sugar industry, and caused untold famine among already impoverished sugar workers. The plight of malnourished children in Negros became the subject of national and international attention.

“The so-called ‘Marcos bonus’ for sugar workers, now known as the Social Amelioration Program or SAP, was nothing but a palliative measure which was also made a source of corruption for his cronies. We must never forget this despicable legacy of oppression, plunder and corruption,” said Ramos.

UMA also stressed that Marcos’s record of human rights violations under Martial Law must never be forgotten. “The Marcos burial opened wounds for the thousands of victims who still seek indemnification – the former political prisoners, and the kin of those who were killed and disappeared,” said Ramos.

“Instead of accomodating the Marcoses and promoting militarist tendencies, Duterte must work to grant justice to victims of past and present state atrocities and free all political prisoners,” stressed Ramos.

UMA said that Duterte’s moves and dangerous pronouncements further embolden state troopers to commit Martial Law-type atrocities in the countryside, even as peace talks are ongoing between his government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), and respective unilateral ceasefires are currently in place.

In Bacolod City, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s affliate based in Negros, joins the National Day of Unity and Rage against the Marcos burial to seek justice for the victims of the Escalante massacre.

“The people of Escalante in Negros Occidental shall never forget the gruesome massacre of sugar workers in 1985. Marcos was never a hero for agricultural workers,” said Ramos.

“The farm workers of Escalante are our true heroes. Their spirit lives on as we continue the fight for national liberation and democracy.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 25, 2016
Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, 09994363493

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