Caraga farmers continue to assert genuine land reform despite militarization intensified by Duterte’s Martial Law

IFFSM NEWS RELEASE April 8, 2018

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)

Butuan City – A total of 300 farmers, plantation workers and Lumad joined the Caraga-leg of the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) to defend peasants’ land and human rights against militarism and plunder in Mindanao spearheaded by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Mindanao for Civil Liberties, Asian Peasant Coalition, PANAP, Barug Katungod-Mindanao and other organizations.

KMP said farmers, farmworkers, agricultural workers and indigenous people in Caraga region remain steadfast in their struggle to assert genuine land reform, defend their right to land and resist land grabbing in the region despite the intense militarization throughout Agusan and Surigao provinces.

Farmers are persisting with their campaign against land monopoly and land use conversion especially since the region’s rich land resources are targeted for the expansion of oil palm plantations and mining operations of foreign companies.

Agrarian reform beneficiaries in Agusan Plantation Inc, Filipinas Palm Plantations Inc. in Agusan del Sur and Tubay Agricultural Center in Agusan del Norte are asserting their right and defending their position in almost 10,000 hectares of agricultural lands that are now under the control of plantation companies.

Both farmers and indigenous people are resisting the expansion of Dole Philippines in Tago, Sumifru in Tagbina towns in Surigao del Sur and Del Monte’s expansion in Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte.

“These land resources belong to the people of Caraga and not to foreign big businesses. We will defend it with our lives,” says Virgilio Lincuna, chairperson of KMP in Caraga.

Other successful campaigns of farmers include the increase of wages of plantation workers from P100 to P250 per day. Farmers are asserting the lowering of interest rates in land rent, the implementation of 75-25 percent production share in favor of farmers.

Martial Law intensified militarization, HRVs

“We found out during the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (IFFSM) that 9 battalions of the Philippine Army are currently deployed and operating in Caraga.

From the previous 7 full and special battalions last year, 2 additional battalions – the 88th IB and 65th IB, were deployed in the region after the Marawi siege,” says Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP.

The total deployment of the AFP in Caraga is as follows: 88thIB, 65thIB, 29thIB, 30th, 36thIB, 26th, 75thIB, 16th and 3rd Special Force Battalions, and 23rdIB cadre battalion with more than 5,000 ground troops wreaking havoc in peasant and IP communities.

These battalions are under the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army led by Major General Ronald Villanueva.

From August to September 2017, Caraga farmers held a protest camp at Mendiola, Manila, the Lakbayan at Kampuhan Laban sa Kahirapan at Karahasan, to highlight the strong demand for the lifting of Martial Law, resolution of the root causes of poverty, landlessness and a stop to the nationwide peasant killings. They have raised their concerns to national government agencies and President Rodrigo Duterte, but their demands fell on deaf ears.

Instead, militarization has further intensified in areas where there are strong land struggles launched by farmers and their organizations in the region. The intense militarization in Caraga has also affected the socio-economic status of farmers. Persistent combat military operations have driven farmers and indigenous people into further poverty and hunger.

Farmers and Lumad people cannot go back to their farmlands, evacuations continue because of military operations,” said Flores.

“Killings and other human rights abuses intensified under Duterte’s Martial Law. Throughout Caraga, the ongoing Community Operations for Peace and Development of the Philippine Army take form in military encampment in civilian communities, house-to-house campaign identifying leaders and members of farmers organizations, and never-ending incidents of threat, harassment and intimidation. Alternative schools for indigenous youth and children also face serious threats and attacks,” Lincuna said.

Killings and red-tagging

KMP and Karapatan in Caraga has documented 11* farmers and Lumad killed under Duterte. Ten of which happened after the May 23 declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao: Meliton Catampungan, Silvestre Maratas, Felipe Achas, Perfecto Hoyle, Vivencio Sahay, Rolando Moreno, Aaron Notarte, Ruel Paldapan, Kenard Barrientos and Nico Delamente. (*Data from the findings of the IFFSM Caraga team will be added to this figure.)

“Farmers are being accused and tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army. Those who are active in land struggles were charged with trumped-up charges and jailed. Peasant leaders are tagged as terrorists, with their names and pictures posted in checkpoints across Caraga,” the KMP leader said.

Martial Law has worsened the situation of farmers,” Lincuna said.

Landless farmers are burdened with high land rent, high irrigation fees, lacking support services from the government and continued political killings and human rights violations,” the local KMP leader said.

Since April 6, local and international organizations have probed the peasant killings and other human rights violations under Martial Law in Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.

The full report of the IFFSM from the three regions will be presented to the IFFSM press conference in Davao City tomorrow morning.

Joining and spearheading the contingents are former DAR Sec. Rafael Mariano, former Rep. Satur Ocampo, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, and human rights workers and land reform advocates from KARAPATAN, Tanggol Magsasaka, APC, PANAP, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) Commission 6 and the Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS). ###

References Caraga team:

Antonio Flores, KMP Sec. Gen 09212726682

Nadja de Vera, UMA media officer 0916 2436843

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