The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today joined farmers and agricultural workers from Cagayan Valley provinces who are now in Manila to raise their most urgent concerns, particularly rising human rights violations perpetrated by state forces. More than 20 peasant leaders from Isabela, Cagayan, and Quirino provinces trooped to Camp Aguinaldo, Senate, and Department of Justice to air their grievances concerning the situation in peasant communities that is worse than Martial Law. “The COVID-19 lockdowns were conveniently used by the NTF-ELCAC to impose military rule in provinces,” according to Renato Gameng of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Isabela (DAGAMI-KMP).
On the last day of their two-day lobbying efforts in NCR, victims of the NTF-ELCAC’s ‘forced surrender’ modus operandi narrated their harrowing experiences. “Araw-araw kaming pinupuntahan sa bahay ng mga pulis at sundalo. Sinusundan kami kahit sa bukid. Maraming military ang nagpupunta sa baryo namin, pinipilit kaming pumirma at magsurender. Hindi na kami makapagsaka dahil sa sobrang takot. Kung hindi makakapagsaka, magugutom ang pamilya namin,” says Glenda Santos of the Samahan ng Magtatabako sa Sta. Isabel, Ilagan City in Isabela province.
For their part, sugarcane plantation workers demanding higher wages said they are being constantly red-tagged as NPA members, and soldiers would even visit them during their day offs. “Ang unyon namin ay nakipaglaban para sa dagdag na sahod at benepisyo dahil 20 years na kaming nagtatrabaho sa tubuhan. Mula sa dating P150 kada araw, naging P220 kada raw ang sahod namin dahil sa kampanya namin, pero lagi kaming hinaharas kami ng mga sundalo,” according to Dominga Aberion of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura.
The peasant group said the intense militarization in Cagayan Valley provinces has severely disrupted the way of life of farmers. “Farmers are living in fear. AFP soldiers from the 17th, 95th, 86th, 77th under the 5th Infantry Division have permanently encamped in local villages and made peasant communities their garrisons. This is a clear violation of farmers’ socio-political and civil rights. We call on the CHR and the House of Representatives to act conscientiously on the demands of farmers,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of KMP.
Since August this year, KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka have documented numerous incidents of forced surrender of farmers from Isabela and Cagayan towns. Ramos said the NTF-ELCAC is nothing but a scourge to poor peasants.
The group will dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights and will urge legislators to file house resolutions to probe the situation of farmers in Cagayan Valley. ###