Business as usual, that is the reaction today of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao as only oligarchs and multinationals will benefit from this.
This was ensured by one of the most rightist and pro-neoliberal member of President Duterte’s cabinet, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. He was one of those who persuaded the chief executive to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao, even if fighting on the so-called Maute and Abu Sayyaf Groups were only confined in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
UMA is also one with the people of Marawi City in condemning on the violence inflicted on them by these groups, but at the same time in using this as an excuse to declare martial law.
According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of UMA, it is calling on its members nationwide to oppose martial law in Mindanao and its possible extension to the whole country. He added that martial law will only further suppress the labor, land and human rights of agricultural workers and of the Filipino people.
Such is the case of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI). They were installed by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Sec. Rafael Mariano back to their lands grabbed by Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC) on May 18 this year on the orders of President Duterte himself.
Recent reports though indicate that LFC guards are harassing MARBAI members and their supporters. Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao might embolden said oligarch owned company to once again forcibly eject them from their lands.
Another is the continued harassment and death threats made on May 23 by elements of the 66th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army on striking workers of Shin Sun Tropical Corp in Compostela Valley.
The company is a Korean owned banana plantation and 80 of its workers staged a strike on March 16 for being dismissed by the company because of labor only contracting. Its members are affiliated with Shin Sun Workers Union-NAFLU-KMU.
All organizers and members of agricultural workers in Mindanao are at risk of being attacked by state security forces as Defense Chief Lorenzana branded the place as a haven of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).
Agricultural workers should emulate the example of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) which was organized in 1971 or a year before the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. NFSW in coordination with UMA will hold a Congress this coming May 30-31 in Bacolod City to re-establish itself as a national federation.
Even when Marcos declared martial law, NFSW continued to successfully organize sugar workers in the fields and mills across the island even with arrests made on their ranks. A number of them also joined the armed resistance against the dictatorship.
Because of the intense exploitation and oppression against the sugar workers, NFSW was able to expand up to the 80’s and it was even a founding member of the KMU. It also contributed immensely to the ouster of Marcos from power in 1986 despite suffering deaths during the Escalante massacre a year before that.
Agricultural workers already have their own organizations in Mindanao and have been steeled in struggle as their collective actions like in the rest of the country have been met by fascist attacks. They should be ready to face further attacks because of the declaration of martial law and engage in all forms of struggle necessary.
They have the support of the Filipino peasantry, workers and people in defending their labor, land and human rights and in shouting never again to martial law. President Duterte should lift martial law because even if it is very harsh, the people would definitely struggle and win against it.