The members of CONTEND-UP Diliman today join all progressive organizations and patriotic Filipino people, especially the landless farmers and farm workers, in remembering the 32nd year of the brutal massacre of farmers at Mendiola, Manila. As we remember and struggle for justice for the twelve killed at the gruesome massacre on January 22, 1987, we also face today the continuing state terror that led to recent Sagay City Massacre killing nine Negrense farmers last October 20, 2018.
Our oppressed farmers had been enslaved to brutal feudal exploitation since the Spanish colonialism. For centuries, they had been subjected to dehumanizing slavery. Decades of attempts at land reform have apparently failed. According to IBON Foundations, land remains concentrated in the hands of a few. Official census could only claim at most 62% of farms under full ownership. The rest are under various forms of tenure, including tenancy at 15 percent. According to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), 93% of the remaining balance for land redistribution are private agricultural landholdings. There are more than 97,000 hectares of agricultural land converted to other uses while more than 120,000 hectares have been approved for conversion between 1998 until January 2016. The continuing struggle of farmers to assert their claim over the sprawling 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac attests to the failure of decades of pro-landlord land reform program under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its extension, CARPER. The Aquino-Cojuangco clan continues to employ all means including harassment and intimidation to maintain control over the hacienda.
Shackled under this feudal bondage, our farmers, through cooperative land occupation or bungkalan in various provinces across the country, had begun asserting their right to make land productive. With bungkalan, peasant communities are able to directly address food insecurity and hunger. Among numerous land cultivation activities in the Negros island, there have been more than 200 bungkalans which began since 2009 spanning 3,000 hectares and benefiting 2,000 farm workers in Negros Occidental. Farm workers or dumaans here are known to receive only a meager Php170 in daily wages. Sakadas, or farm laborers not from the area, receive much lower wages (Php110 for males and Php100 for females). The massacre of the nine Sagay farmers, who were victims of private armies of hacienderos (by the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA), breakaway group from New People’s Army, under the Armed Forces of the Philippines), was made possible by the inability of the US-Duterte regime to dismantle big haciendas and implement genuine agrarian reform. The NSFW said that since 2017, there have been 47 farmers and sugar workers killed in Negros due to land conflict.
The harassment of farmers is rooted in landlessness. According to government data, 1,727 medium and large landlords control 52 percent of the more than 222,600 hectares of sugar cane areas of Negros Island. The farmers are collectively putting up resistance against the continuing landlessness aggravated by financialization of agriculture. Around 1.2 million hectares of land are under various forms of contract growing schemes under agribusiness venture arrangements (AVAs) that are profit-oriented. Many of the largest haciendas remain intact because land reform programs and laws such as the Presidential Decree No. 27, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), National Tourism Act of 2009 and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, have allowed landowners to skirt land distribution, expand their land ownership and even convert lands to non-agricultural use. Philippine oligarchs led by the country’s billionaires such as the late Henry Sy, the Zobel-Ayalas, the Roxases, the Lopezes, the Yulos, Cojuangco of Negros Islands, the Cojuangco-Aquinos of Central Luzon, the Floirendos, and the Consunjis, among others, have taken advantage of various land laws to gain or regain control over vast tracts of land.
Our country remains agricultural saddled by semifuedal social relations. The current crisis in our rice reflects the underdevelopment of our agriculture and the suffering of our farmers. Recently President Duterte issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 13 to remove non-tariff barriers on agricultural products that would further impoverish our farmers. When our farmers organize to collectively asset their right to land, they are either killed or met with brutal state violence like the Kidapawan tragedy in 2016.
As educators and educational workers, we have to stand with our farmers. We cannot remain serenely imprisoned to our classrooms while our food security is undermined. Our teachers are also suffering from low salary and high inflation rate. The crisis in agriculture aggravates their economic spending and undercut their food security compounded by run-away inflation rate. Like our fellow Filipino farmers, teachers, too, are victims of state repression, surveillance and military profiling.
We therefore call on our fellow teachers to support the struggle of our landless farmers for genuine land reform. We urge them to go to the rural areas and learn from the lives and struggles of the farmers. Let us bring our students and encourage them to write their research and papers to expose the intensifying assault of the foreign agribusiness against our farmers, the land grabbing practices of our local big comprador bourgeoisie, and the fascist attacks of the US-Duterte regime against bungkalan and farmers’ organizations.
JUSTICE TO THE VICTIMS OF MENDIOLA MASSACRE!
JUSTICE TO SAGAY 9!
JUSTICE TO ALL FARMERS WHO ARE VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!
IMPLEMENT GENUINE AGRARIAN REFORM!
DOWN WITH STATE FASCISM AND TERRORISM AGAINST FARMERS!
DOWN WITH FEUDALISM!
DOWN WITH IMPERIALISM!