‘October Revolution Centennial Celebration’ rouses Metro Cebu  

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Young cultural activists perform at the Plaza Independencia, Cebu City as part of the October Revolution Centennial Celebration. (Photo CTTO)

CEBU CITY – Heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits of a hundred flag bearers accompanied by thousands of working people who marched the streets of Metro Cebu early evening yesterday, October 19.

The marchers waved a hundred red flags with the communist hammer and sickle insignia from the Fuente Osmena rotunda, through the busy Colon intersection and through the Plaza Independencia public park, where delegates of the Lakbayan ng Visayas inter-island protest caravan held a rousing program to open the October Revolution Centennial Celebrations (ORCC) here in the city.

“Many of you may have been startled to see these flags out in the open. For so long, this (hammer and sickle) symbol of workers and peasants has been demonized by oppressors and imperialists,” John Ruiz of Bayan Muna Central Visayas said in his opening speech.

“The Filipino toiling masses turn to the historic victory of the Russian revolution for invaluable lessons to guide our own struggle for national democracy and socialism,” said John Milton Lozande, Secretary General of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the national political center of militant agricultural workers’ unions and associations in haciendas and plantations.

Filipino activists are among progressives and revolutionaries all over the world who continue to draw inspiration from the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, also known as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 led by Vladimir Lenin in Russia. The 1917 revolution established the first socialist state in the world.

“The revolutionaries who established socialist states such as the former USSR freed a significant fraction of the world’s working peoples from the clutches of class oppression. This historical fact is obscured and disparaged by the dominant bourgeois and imperialist discourse, but the toiling masses can only find hope, reason and perspective in the revolutionary proletarian standpoint exemplified by Lenin,” added Lozande.

The Philippine ORCC had its public launch on May 5, 2017 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman led by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and Bagong Alyansang Bayan (BAYAN). Since then, various activities such as study conferences, solidarity activities, and cultural presentations were held to bolster the ORCC. UMA is a member organization of ILPS and BAYAN.

Here in Cebu, several activist cultural groups from the ranks of young farmers and agricultural workers of Negros, Cebu and Bohol performed theatrical presentations to celebrate the working peoples’ struggle for land, justice and peace. Among these groups are Bansiwag of Bohol, Teatro Obrero, associated with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Teatro Kaling, and Teatro Bungkal of Negros Occidental, whose troupe performed a 45-minute dance and movement cycle detailing the history of Negros and the continuing struggle of its toiling masses.

The performances were met with resounding applause and cheering from the audience composed mainly of poor peasants and workers, with students, church people, educators and other supporters of the Lakbayan. The program ended around 11:00 in the evening with the singing of the Filipino version of the Internationale, the anthem of the international working class movement.

“The victory of the October Revolution reminds us that the human race must not settle for the mad world that the moribund capitalist system supports – a world of brutality and decadence, unending wars, plunder, and famine founded on exploitation and oppression.”

“We will continue to fight imperialism and its neoliberal attacks to advance the struggle for national democracy – for genuine land reform, national industrialization, and social justice. Workers believe that with a socialist perspective, another world is definitely possible.” ended Lozande.

The Lakbayan ng Visayas will culminate in a big mobilization today, October 20. The ORCC will also be a main feature of the #LakbayMagsasaka Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo to be held from October 23-25 in Manila.

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#LakbayMagsasaka | Protests hound agencies in Cebu for neglect of Visayan farmers

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Huge Lakbayan contingent temporarily blocked by security men near the US Consulate in Cebu Ciy.  Photo: Aninaw Productions

Thousands of farmers belonging to the Lakbayan ng Visayas inter-island protest caravan swarmed the streets of Cebu today to decry government neglect of Visayan farmers.

Tenant farmers, fisherfolk, and sugar workers from the Visayas are among the most destitute in the country. The Lakbayan protests emphasized that Duterte’s unfulfilled campaign promises, and the neoliberal policies and imperialist impositions in the economy cause further dislocation and extreme poverty in local peasant communities.

Over a thousand sugar farmworkers from Negros under the National Federation of Sugar Workers-Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (NFSW-UMA) spilled to the streets as they occupied the façade of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region VII office.

According to John Milton Lozande, UMA Secretary General, sugar workers decry the DOLE’s performance, if not outright complicity in the anomalous implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) in the sugar industry.

SAP is a government program enacted in 1991 through RA 6982. It provides for bonuses, benefits and socio-economic programs for sugar workers. During the dialogue with DOLE officials, NFSW Chairperson Rolando Rillo said that most sugar workers in the region, including Negros Oriental and Northern Cebu, report that they do not receive any form of assistance from the program.

“Our problem with SAP is much like the coco levy and tobacco excise tax which the Marcoses have plundered. The government exacts a levy from sugar produce supposedly to help the workers, but our poor farmworkers have no way of taking direct control of the funds,” he said.

Rillo added that for the longest time, SAP funds were used by big landlords and sugar barons to further reinforce the feudal patronage system and to fund the private armies of hacienderos that augment militarization in the countryside. A similar program to SAP was first enacted in the 1950s, but was also institutionalized during Martial Law and favored Marcos cronies in the sugar industry.

Meanwhile, Lakbayan protesters also trooped to other government agencies this morning. Farmers from HUMABOL-Bohol and KMP-Cebu held a picket at the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to highlight President Duterte’s empty promise of free irrigation to farmers. Local peasant groups and fisherfolk from Pamalakaya held a dialogue with DENR officials to decry reclamation programs, rampant land use conversion and the anti-people No Build Zone policy. Protests and dialogues with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and other agencies are scheduled for this afternoon.

IMPERYALISMO, IBAGSAK!     

The Lakbayan protests merged this morning at the US Consulate with the call to end lopsided trade agreements affecting agriculture, US military exercises and military basing across the country and other neoliberal attacks against the Filipino people.

“The Duterte regime has proven itself beholden to US imperialist dictates,” said Rillo.  “His slogans for an independent foreign policy now rings hollow. He bows down to the US by doing nothing to change US hegemony in the country, while also making our economy increasingly dependent on multi-billion loans from China and other big powers,” he added.

“The country will remain backward and our farmers impoverished without genuine land reform. The feudal set-up in the countryside provides continued basis for imperialist leeches to fester,” he ended.

The Visayas Lakbayan will culminate here in Cebu tomorrow, October 20, while farmers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) from Mindanao, Bicol, Southern Tagalog and North and Central Luzon regions will continue to march to Manila for the #LakbayMagsasaka Pambansang Lakbayan para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo from October 23-25.

 

Farmers, Church groups unite for genuine land reform and an end to extrajudicial killings

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INTRAMUROS, MANILA  — Various farmers organizations, religious leaders, Church-based organizations and land reform advocates gathered today to form the Coalition for Land, Against Martial Law and Oppression (CLAMOR) to express the broad peoples’ unity to advance genuine land reform, social justice and civil liberties amidst current turbulent times.

“The most urgent situation calls upon us all to unite and act collectively for social justice and the common good. We are calling for free land distribution to the tillers. We want to put a stop to the killings of farmers as well as other extra-judicial killings. The peasantry and other sectors will continue to resist the tyrannical acts of the present government and its impending declaration of Martial Law throughout the country,” said Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and a convenor of CLAMOR.

The broad coalition composed of farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk, workers, agrarian reform and peasants’ advocates, together with church-people and religious, non-government organizations, artists and other rural development advocates and supporters are calling for a stop to the peasant political killings. As of September, there have been 91 victims of political killings from the peasant and rural sector.

According to Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, former secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and also a convenor of the coalition, “There is indeed a mounting clamor among the peasant sector and the public in general to end the systematic terror being unleashed by the Duterte government against the rural folk and the people. The tillers, those who produce our food, have no land of their own and are mired in poverty and hunger. The moment they assert their rights, they become targets of repression and state-sponsored killings. The families of the victims are crying for help and shouting for justice. Their loved ones who were killed are not mere statistics in the growing list of victims of extrajudicial killings but also a clear testament to the continuing landlessness of the Filipino peasants and the alarming brutality and impunity with which the government carries out its repressive acts againts the rural folk and the people.”

“We also want to reach out to the families of those killed in the name of the government’s anti-drugs war. We are all victims of the killing spree. This rampage needs to stop. Enough is enough. Together, we will seek justice,” Ramos said.

The newly-launched coalition announced the holding of a broad rally on Wednesday, October 25 to be led by farmers and rural-based organizations. That day will mark the nationally-coordinated Peasant Caravan or Lakbay Magsasaka actions to demand genuine land reform and an end to extrajudicial killings, including peasant political killings. Sectors will hold protest programs at Welcome Rotonda, University of Sto. Tomas and Mendiola.

CLAMOR is convened by CBCP National Secretariat for Social Actions, Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo, KMP, United Churches of Christ in the Philippines, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Servants of the Holy Spirit, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart,  Bishop Broderick Pabillo, ARISE, Stop the Killings Network, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan, Task Force Mapalad, Bataris-Aurora, KATARUNGAN, Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula, AMIHAN Peasant Women Federation, Pamalakaya, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates and ARBs One Movement-Southern Mindanao.

Among the lead convenors of CLAMOR are Mariano and Archdiocese of Manila Auxillary Bishop Most. Rev. Broderick Pabillo. #

 

#LakbayMagsasaka | Visayas Rural Poor Summit to Duterte: Listen to working people’s woes

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Cebu City,   October 18 –  The city has not witnessed anything like this in years that Cebuanos –  motorists, ordinary folk and other onlookers along the streets of downtown Cebu could not help but stare at the sight of more than 2,000 farmers marching with banners and red flags.

The street demonstrations and “salubungan” (welcome) of delegates to the Lakbayan ng Visayas may have interrupted Cebu City’s usual routine yesterday in far more profound ways, said John Lozande, Secretary General of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

Police reported that the protests caused minor traffic in this city’s major thoroughfares.

“What we are witnessing is the naked power of our working people –  farmers long-oppressed by the hacienda system, mill workers, contractual laborers, our jeepney drivers, coming together to air their demands against a populist President who reneged on his promise of change,” said Lozande.

The start of the Visayas Lakbayan coincided with the second day of a nationwide transport strike to oppose government moves for a jeepney phase-out.

Farmers under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have openly declared support for jeepney drivers and small operators even as local peasant organizations launched distinct mass actions all over the country airing equally legitimate demands as part of #LakbayMagsasaka activities this October, which is considered “peasant month.”

“Duterte’s own pronouncements are exposing himself to be a despicable tyrant,” said Lozande, referring to President Duterte’s insensitive statements addressed to protesting jeepney drivers and their supporters. Duterte reportedly suggested that “the poor must be left alone to fend for themselves.”

The Lakbayan ng Visayas is an inter-island protest caravan against hunger and state fascism. Negros farmworkers under UMA and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) are among the thousands of peasants who converged in Cebu yesterday.

Farmers decried that they are witnessing both hunger and brutal repression under the Duterte regime. In Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, 8 farmers became victims of political killings from July to September alone, due to Duterte’s all-out war policy.

Today, the farmers will hold a Visayas Rural Poor Summit. UMA said that among the issues that must be decisively addressed is the plight of Negros farmworkers who experience extreme hunger during the tiempo muerto (dead season) or off-milling season in the sugar industry.

NFSW is also campaigning for a P50 increase in farmworkers’ daily wages, and 50% increase in the pakyaw (group wage) rates in sugar areas.

“Duterte must listen to working people’s woes,” said Lozande. “The iron-fist, scorched earth policy that Duterte employs to address the roots of discontent and strife in the country will only further isolate his regime.”

The Lakbayan ng Visayas peasant camp-out at Plaza Independencia will go on until October 20.

Meanwhile, KMP member-organizations from Mindanao, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, North and Central Luzon regions, are preparing for the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #LakbayMagsasaka which will culminate in protests in Manila from October 23-25.

#LakbayMagsasaka | Young activists bring peasant issues to millennials, general public  

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Lorna Tecson of KAUGMAON-KMP (R) in Aninaw’s live Facebook broadcast, October 16.

CEBU CITY – “Nanay” (Mother) Lorna Tecson crossed the Tañon Strait between Negros Island and Cebu and travelled with fellow peasant leaders a few days ahead of the inter-island protest caravan, Lakbayan ng Visayas. Representing her organization KAUGMAON, Nanay Lorna is to talk to about the killings in her home locale, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.

Sitting in a makeshift TV studio with young activists of the Cebu-based Aninaw Productions, an alternative media group which runs podcasts, community radio programs and live mobile broadcasts on their Facebook page, Nanay Lorna freely narrated how her own family came across military harassment and atrocities. Local farmers like her are constantly subjected to red-tagging and profiling. KAUGMAON is the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Negros Oriental.

Lorna’s husband, Alberto “Leboy” Tecson, a fisherman and local leader of Pamalakaya, was shot dead in front of their children on July 24, the same day President Duterte delivered his 2nd State of the Nation Address. Tecson is the 2nd victim in an “extra-judicial killing-spree” in Guihulngan City which has now claimed a total of 8 victims in a span of only three months.

The Aninaw broadcast also sought to bring the issue of Tiempo Muerto (dead season) or the off-milling season in the sugar industry which plagues impoverished farmworkers annually. The broadcast attracted over 2,000 viewers – a fairly insignificant figure compared to the millions of viewers that big networks reach everyday with regular newscasts.

The feisty anchor Mel, speaking in the local vernacular, nevertheless stated the importance of bringing  these issues to the general public especially the youth  —  the so-called “millennials” that they reach through broadcasts in social media could be made aware of issues related to land reform, food security and other concerns of ordinary Filipino people.

“Tiempo muerto and the issue of peasant killings are rarely discussed in mainstream media. We didn’t know of Leboy’s killing until we met Nanay Lorna here, and they are not the only victims,” Mel said. According to Karapatan’s latest tally, 91 farmers have become victims of political killings since President Duterte assumed office.

Today, October 17, more victims of militarization are set to converge here in the city for the Lakbayan ng Visayas, an inter-island protest caravan which is part of the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo this October. Thousands of farmers from Negros, Panay,  Bohol, and Eastern Visayan islands are set to camp-out at Plaza Independencia.

A week earlier, on October 13, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) with the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth), and peasant advocate / artist groups Sinagbayan and SAKA also launched a live Social Media Forum at Roots Katipunan in Quezon City with farmers from Hacienda Luisita and the Buffalo, Tamaraw, Limus (BTL) associations of Bukidnon. Campus journalists vowed to bring peasant issues in the pages of their publications.

“In the next few days, you can expect that we will not only provide broader print space to air these issues – (the youth) will fervently march alongside the farmers and the people in their bid to expose the anti-people policies of the Duterte regime, seek justice for the killings, and to advance the struggle for free land distribution and genuine land reform,” CEGP National President Jose Mari Callueng said in a statement read at the forum. The forum’s social media broadcast attracted over 4,000 viewers on Facebook.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General John Milton “Butch” Lozande, lauded the young activists’ efforts and encouraged similar initiatives. “Farmers’ concerns are actually dead beat in media, but there is a host of issues in the countryside that the public must be aware of. The perennial land problem is actually the root of the country’s woes,” he said.

“All forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation as manifested in the abusive hacienda and plantation system must end. Farmers and the Filipino people will continue to march and protest without genuine land reform and national industrialization,” said Lozande.

The Lakbayan ng Visayas camp-out in this city will run until October 20. Meanwhile, peasant groups led by KMP from Mindanao, Bicol provinces, Southern Tagalog and Central and Northern Luzon will converge in Quezon City on October 23. The Lakbay Magsasaka protests will culminate in a big mobilization in Manila on October 25.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  October 17, 2017

Reference: John Milton Lozande, Secretary General, UMA, 09100314479 

 

Cimatu appointment spells intensified plunder and rights violations in Mindanao

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Environment, labor, indigenous people’s rights and land reform advocates come together to establish the REAP Mindanao Network in 2015. (FILE PHOTO) 

The Network Resisting Expansion of Agribusiness Plantations in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network) warned that the confirmation of ex-militaryman Roy Cimatu is tantamount to intensified plunder in the island.

REAP joins environmental groups in condemning the speedy confirmation of an ex-military man who is unfit to head the DENR. John Milton Lozande of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), one of REAP’s convener-organizations, said that Cimatu has no background in environmental management and protection. “Cimatu rather has a gruesome track record in attacking those who defend their lands and environment,” Lozande added.

REAP is a broad network of organizations and individuals opposed to the aggressive expansion of agribusiness plantations in Mindanao.

REAP believes that contrary to the mandate of the agency of protecting the environment, the DENR under Cimatu leadership will intensify environmental plunder by protecting big mining and  agricultural businesses.

Cimatu, like other military honchos who have colluded with businesses, is a known logging protector. In 1994, Cimatu, then a colonel of the Philippine Army headed “Task Force Lumad” with the Davao del Norte police, which protected the C. Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) logging company in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The integrated forestry management agreement (IFMA) granted to Alsons resulted in intimidation and violence against forest dwellers – farmers and indigenous people. Task Force Lumad was created to quell resistance of the Salugpungan in defending their ancestral lands from plunder by training CAFGU paramilitaries among the Ata-Manobo people, creating a divide among the indigenous people that resulted to bloody armed conflict and human rights violations.

Not only is Cimatu guilty of acquiescing environment plunder but he is also a corruption conduit. He is among the retiring AFP chiefs involved in the “pabaon scandal” who received send-off money under the Arroyo administration. Cimatu allegedly received P80 million from the people’s money.

Furthermore, Cimatu’s confirmation strengthens militarization of bureaucracy under the Duterte administration that poses increased threats to people defending their socio-economic rights. Since Duterte’s assumption, environmental groups have recorded at least 23 environment-related killings, most of which are indigenous peoples and peasants resisting large-scale mining and agricultural plantation projects.

Lozande said, “These attacks will intensify amid recent government pronouncements of engaging in joint venture agreements with big agribusiness companies. Vast tracts of Mindanao remain targets for expansion of agricultural plantations. About 12% or 500,000 hectares of Mindanao’s agricultural land in the five regions of Mindanao are covered with agricultural plantation crops primarily for the export market, endangering local food security.”

Recently, the Department of Trade and Industry announced another possible joint venture for oil palm plantation with Malaysia, a current industry dominator. This development is in line with Duterte’s pronouncement of immediately developing some 300,000 hectares for oil palm plantations.

“Expansion of agricultural plantations and plunder of environment will mean hunger, escalated militarization and human rights violations in affected communities in Mindanao. Cimatu at the helm of DENR will play the role of one of Duterte administration’s henchmen in plundering Mindanao instead of solving the problem,” Lozande ended.

#Magtagumpay | Farmers poised to gain more victories in land struggle

mgtaguLEGAZPI CITY – National agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is one with hundreds of farmers from all over the country gathered today at the Ibalong Centrum in Legazpi City for the 8th National Congress of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The militant KMP is the biggest organization of peasants and farmworkers in the country.

According to UMA Chairperson Renato Mendoza, the KMP congress is convened amid alarming conditions confronting our farmers today.  “The declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, for one, has already affected hundreds of thousands of peasants not just in the Marawi and Lanao area, but also in various provinces in Mindanao. Outside Mindanao, farmers also suffer de facto martial law, with the AFP’s all-out war against progressive and revolutionary forces in the countryside. Civilians in peasant communities become victims of military atrocities,” said Mendoza.

In the Bicol region, where the KMP congress is being held, the recent declaration of “red alert” by state forces have resulted in more human rights violations in areas already reeling from militarization. Farmers have converged here in Legazpi City, defying terror tactics and intense military operations. More than a thousand farmer-delegates come from Bicol provinces Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

“Kapayapaan ang pangako ni Pangulong Duterte pero nanganganib na gumuho ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa NDFP dahil sa militarista at pasitang tunguhin ng rehimen (Duterte promised us peace but the peace talks with the NDFP is in peril of collapse due to the fascist and militarist direction of the Duterte regime),” Mendoza said.

“There can be no peace without justice. Government must heed our demand for genuine land reform and national industrialization, which will also address the roots of armed conflict in the country. All-out war, martial law, and US military intervention will only spark further unrest in the countryside. The dislocation of peasants and internal refugees is but a prelude to a new wave of landgrabbing for imperialist interests such as large-scale mining, so-called development projects and expansion of agribusiness plantations,” Mendoza emphasized.

The KMP Congress theme, “Magtagumpay!” challenges the odds posed by violent maneuvers of militarists and oligarchs in the Duterte regime, who are now desperate to maintain imperialist neoliberal economics and the country’s oppressive, semifeudal set-up.

“UMA fully supports the KMP in leading the peasant struggle for genuine land reform and national industrialization. Even with intense militarization in the countryside, aerial bombings, political killings, state terror and repression, peasants are poised to gain greater victories in our campaign to dismantle the hacienda system and land monopoly of big landlords and agribusinesses,” said Mendoza.

UMA cited the peasant struggle in Hacienda Luisita against the CojuangcoAquino family, and in Madaum, Tagum City, where agriworkers triumphed against the landgrabbing Lorenzo family of Lapanday Corporation. “The bungkalan or land cultivation initiatives of peasants thrive in these areas, due to collective and militant struggle,” Mendoza stressed.

Department of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Lead Convenor Liza Maza, and Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel Casilao were also present at the KMP Congress to support peasant demands for genuine land reform and national industrialization.

The 2-day KMP Congress will end tomorrow, and will culminate in a protest march, July 14, to be joined by thousands of Bikolano farmers in downtown Legazpi City.

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Sugar farmworkers unite to dismantle various Cojuangco haciendas

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Nearly three decades after the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP, farmworkers under sugarcane haciendas launch simultaneous actions against the powerful Cojuangco landlord clan.

In Tarlac, national agriworkers center Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) joined local farmworkers in a caravan yesterday in Hacienda Luisita barangays to assail undeclared “martial law” within the controversial sugar estate.

Hacienda Luisita is controlled since the 1950s by the family of former Presidents Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, who enacted CARP in 1988, and Benigno Aquino III, under whose regime the CARP expired in 2014. Large parcels of prime agricultural land in Luisita is still heavily guarded by private security and armed state forces.

Yesterday, around 100 policemen were deployed to guard a 500-hectare fenced area in Brgy. Balete which is claimed by commercial bank RCBC. SWAT teams were also seen toting high-powered firearms in checkpoints. Today, farmers and their supporters formed a human chain near an army headquarters located right smack in the middle of a thriving land cultivation area also in the same barangay.

UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos says successive land reform schemes under CARP failed to uplift the lives of downtrodden sugar workers in Hacienda Luisita. Instead, farmworkers were to exposed to various atrocities, including the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.

“First, Cory implemented the oppressive Stock Distribution Option or SDO. Today, despite a Supreme Court decision for total land distribution, Hacienda Luisita is still under the effective control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos through the aryendo or illicit leaseback set-ups. The Cojuangcos are now also business partners with another despotic landlord family, the Lorenzos of Lapanday, who controls thousands of hectares of banana plantations in Mindanao,” said Ramos.

Meanwhile in Negros, notorious landlord and Marcos crony, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., an estranged brood of the Cojuangcos of Luisita, still controls around 5,000 hectares of land under the CARP’s “corporative scheme,” another non-land transfer scheme akin to the SDO.

According to NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande, more than 200 farmworkers from 11 Cojuangco haciendas in Negros Occidental have set up a protest camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) local office in in Bacolod City to demand the termination of Danding’s corporative scheme and revocation of various joint-venture agreements forged with CARP “beneficiaries.”

The corporative scheme was enforced in the following haciendas in 1998: Hda. Balatong, Hda. Nieva, Hda. Bonifacia, Hda. Soledad, Hda.Candelaria, Hda. Fe, Hda. Caridad and Candaguet, Hda. San Antonio, Hda. Ara-al, Hda. Kaiyaman and Hda. Adelina and has since comprised the Eduardo Cojuangco Jr or ECJ landholdings. The protests in Bacolod City are led by the ECJ Farmers and Farmworkers Alliance in Negros or EFFWAN.

“The SDO, corporative scheme and joint-venture are onerous contracts and landgrabbing schemes made legal by the CARP. This is the reason why farmworkers reject any extension of this pro-landlord policy and instead push for a genuine land reform program composed mainly of free land distribution to actual tillers,” said Ramos.

Ramos is referring to the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill filed as HB 555 by Anakpawis Partylist and Makabayan bloc, a piece of legislation which is widely supported by farmers across the country.

UMA also said that before the cancellation of the 5th round of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiations were nearing positive developments, especially since both parties have already agreed to free land distribution as component in the crafting of a Comprehensive Agreement for Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER.

“We are enraged that instead of addressing basic socio-economic problems to solve the roots of peasant unrest and armed conflict, the Duterte regime is gearing towards Martial Law and militarist solutions fed to him by ex-generals and other imperialist lapdogs within his Cabinet,” said Ramos.

“Duterte’s peace agenda now appears to be totally undermined with the piling up of various military atrocities in peasant communities in Mindanao and other parts of the country where state forces are under ‘red alert.’ The farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita and Negros have already showed us how to daring land occupation and cultivation actions. Farmers have no recourse left but to continue the fight and dismantle the centuries-old hacienda system,” ended Ramos.

 

 

 

Agriworkers Call for Release of Detained Union Leaders in Mindanao

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) is calling on the Duterte government to order the release of 3 banana workers and their supporters who were arrested on June 2 in Compostela Valley.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of UMA, the arrests sends a chilling effect on the rights of workers to strike in the light of the martial law declaration in Mindanao.

Originally 14 workers and advocates were arrested by a combined force of 100 military men, 30 police officers and some 20 scabs. Most of those who were arrested were beaten up and the place where the workers stayed during their strike was destroyed.

Eleven of the workers were released on the same day except for three. Namely, those still detained at the Compostela police station are Vicente Barrios, union president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (SUMIFRU Packing Plant 232).

Another is Pio Salar (President, Freshmax Workers Union) and Eric Noble (Vice-Pres, Shin Sun Workers Union) are detained in the Compostela Police Station. There has been no case filed against them.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had earlier declared before the workers strike on March 23 that their recruiter, ECQ Serve Human Resources was engaged in the forbidden practice of Labor-only Contracting (LOC). DOLE also ordered the immediate return of the 287 workers previously employed under the agency.

In a research made by Ibon foundation on the conditions of the Shin Sun workers, it found out the following. They are only paid by their recruitment agency at P291 a day, even if the minimum wage in Davao region is set at P307 a day.

Their actual wage though is a measly P135 a day because of various salary deductions. These are for supplies, working tools, and mandated contributions for welfare benefits. The workers, however, found out that their agency never remitted their contributions to the SSS, Philhealth, and Pagibig.

Those who conducted the arrests and destruction of the strike area told the workers that the Labor Law is not enforced because of martial law.

This is absurd as the constitutional rights of the workers and the people have not yet been suspended even if martial law was declared. Thus we reiterate our call that the 3 union leaders should be released immediately and that the DOLE implement its earlier decision that was favorable to the workers.

Sugar workers to Duterte: Fight for Peace

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Sugar workers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao march the streets of Bacolod City for genuine land reform and continuation of peace talks.

BACOLOD CITY — The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), which just successfully held its 8th National Congress here in city, expressed apprehension over President Duterte’s recent pronouncements that may negatively affect prospects for just and lasting peace in the country.

In a protest action in downtown Bacolod today, Rolando Rillo, newly-elected President of NFSW, said that “Sugar workers were eagerly anticipating positive developments in the peace process (between the government and the National Democratic Front), especially after both have declared that they agree to free land distribution and wide-ranging socio-economic reforms.”

“But Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and his inclination towards militarist solutions will only worsen state repression that workers and peasants suffer even without his open declaration of martial rule,” he said.

“Duterte must stop fighting against our own people. He must fight for peace,” added NFSW Secretary General John Milton Lozande.  Sugar workers also fear that Duterte’s public threats against communist peace negotiators in a speech in front of Navy officials in Davao City yesterday would be tantamount to the termination of the talks.

NFSW, a national federation under the wing of national agriworkers center  Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), said its members are not afraid to voice opposition against the bogey of Duterte’s martial law. UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos called on its member-unions and associations nationwide to intensify campaigns for genuine land reform and a just and lasting peace, while launching bold protest actions against Duterte’s martial law.

“Bandying Martial Law about to solve deeply-rooted social problems should never be ‘normalized’ – no amount of government spin and fear-mongering will change the fact that the masses reject martial law,” said Ramos.

The military already admitted that the Marawi crisis is not the only problem that Martial Law seeks to solve – which could mean that it is geared towards Marcos-style fascist repression of people’s rights. “We will join ranks with those who have campaigned against the return of the Marcoses in Malacanang and those who protested against the Marcos burial, besides mobilizing our own members and networks nationwide,” said Ramos.

Aside from numerous active district chapters and local unions and associations in Negros Occidental, the NFSW Congress re-established its links to its organizations in Bukidnon, Socksargends, Panay, Batangas, Tarlac, and Cagayan Valley. NFSW was founded in 1971, and was immediately involved in the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship. Like other militant organizations during that time, NFSW members suffered human rights violations  such as arrests and torture under Marcos. The most appaling incident was the Escalante Massacre in 1985, where around 19 hacienda workers were killed, and many others were wounded.

Despite these challenges, NFSW still dared to continue its organizing work among sugar workers both in the field and mills, until its ranks swelled to 30,000 at the start of the 80’s. “NFSW’s contribution the downfall of the US-Marcos dictatorship is significant,”said Lozande. UMA and NFSW said that they are determined to solve the roots of unrest in the country such as land monopoly and the perpetuation of the hacienda system, and lack of basic industries.

“Duterte’s decision to cancel the 5th round of peace talks with the NDF, his threat to arrest communist consultants once they return to the country, and his toying with the idea of suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas, does not bode well in settling civil unrest. The masses of workers and peasants are most interested in forging socio-economic reforms through the peace process, and Duterte is undermining all the positive developments in the talks with his rash statements,” said Ramos.

“Duterte should not rely on militarists and neoliberal stalwarts in his Cabinet who are the most rabid supporters of declaring and expanding martial law, and scuttling the peace talks. Duterte’s coterie of rightists in his administration underestimate the strength of the masses who are struggling to end feudalism and imperialist control in the country,” added Ramos.

Lozande further emphasized that “NFSW was not cowed when martial law was declared a year after its formation in 1971. We only had only members in Negros island then. Today we are one with the rest of the Filipino people who are resolute in resisting further oppression and state repression.”