Southern Tagalog farmers troop to NCR, calls to stop land grabbing and peasant killings

In defiance of state tyranny

More than a hundred farmers from Southern Tagalog led by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) held a protest caravan to Quezon City today. “Poor farmers from Cavite and Laguna facing land grabbing, militarization, and killings amid a pandemic and economic crisis, have been compelled to defy heightening government attempts at stifling dissent,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) national chairperson Danilo Ramos explains. “The farmers have grown tired of the inaction of their local government units and have decided to troop to the National Capital to air their demands,” Ramos adds. KASAMA-TK is KMP’s regional chapter in Southern Tagalog.

KASAMA-TK’s delegation held quick protest activities today at Camp Aguinaldo headquarters and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to demand an end to militarization, peasant killings, and human rights violations perpetrated by state forces and enabled by President and Commander-in-Chief Duterte.

Eddie Billones of KASAMA TK reports at least 15 cases of peasants killings in Southern Tagalog since the beginning of Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The peasant leader says that nine farmers were killed just last year, the most in any year under Duterte for Southern Tagalog and amid a public health crisis. “We hold responsible for the murders the AFP and PNP, particularly Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade who was appointed SOLCOM chief just last year. Hindi lang basta butangero si Parlade na nguso nang nguso kung kani-kanino at pinagbibintangang silang komunista, duguan ang kaniyang kamay sa pamamaslang sa mga magsasaka,” Billones insists.

KASAMA TK further claimed that military operations against civilian communities have also been intensifying. “Instead of sending health workers to far flung areas where healthcare and information campaigns on the pandemic are urgently necessary as we continue to face COVID, our communities are dumped with soldiers and armed goons,” Billones shares. He explained that the peasants’ struggle for land and their rights are what the increased military presence and operations curtail. “The assassination of CLAIM – Quezon Chapter Chairperson Armando Buwisan last November 14, 2020 is an example of the political motive and economic interests behind militarization and peasant killings,” Billones said.

CLAIM or Coco Levy Ibalik sa Amin is a two-million-strong network of Coco Levy Fund claimants. The now P200-billion-worth Coco Levy Fund was collected from taxes imposed on poor farmers under the Marcos Dictatorship. It was plundered by Marcos and his cronies. It remains undistributed to its rightful owners to this day. “Duterte continuingly deprives the Coco Levy Funds from coconut farmers as he pushes for its privatization,” Billones said.

The farmers also protested in front of the Philippine Coconut Authority. Tomorrow, they are set to hold similar protest actions in front of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Billones also shared about the long-standing land dispute cases in Lupang Ramos in Dasmarinas, Cavite and Hacienda Yulo in Laguna which became more heated the past months. A series of violent and illegal demolition of houses has occurred in Hacienda Yulo this month while Lupang Ramos received new threats of ejectment just last December 2020. Both lands are currently cultivated by descendants of peasants who first farmed in the area during colonial times. Today, both farming communities face attempts of eviction to make way for commercial establishments. “Imbes na suportahan ang magsasaka at palakasin ang agrikultura para may makain ang mamamayan sa gitna ng pandemya, sinasamantala pa ito ng mga land grabber para magpalayas!” Billones laments.

“We need protests this pandemic and economic crisis. We urgently need food, land, and healthcare, but without practicing our democratic rights to criticize failing government policies and officials, we will end up with even less of the crumbs we have. Sa tindi ng mga atake laban sa ating karapatang mabuhay, magsaka, magtrabaho, at magsalita, hindi pwedeng hayaan lang nating kawawa tayo, hindi pwedeng hindi tayo magprotesta,” Ramos ends.

KASAMA TK, with other regional chapters of KMP and its networks, is also set to join in a protest march to Mendiola on January 22 in commemoration of the 34th year of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre. #

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