“We never met any poor farmer that claimed their lives got better under BS Aquino, instead, they faced problems primarily displacement and land grabbing. Commemorating the 27th year of injustice of Mendiola massacre, we demand justice for the victims and of Hacienda Luisita massacre, Lupao massacre and the killing of Hacienda Dolores farmer, Arman Padiño,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson and Anakpawis Party-list regional coordinator.
The groups held their protest-carvan in two directions: in Nueva Ecija early morning, from Guimba public market in, to Aliaga town proper, crossing of Cabanatuan city, in Tarlac, Sta. Rosa – Tarlac city national highway intersection at brgy. San Manuel, Tarlac city near the Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Expressway (Sctex) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), to Metro town mall junction, in front of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) headquarters in brgy. San Miguel, both of the said city, then to Capas public market, following the protest at the Clark freeport main gate in brgy. Balibago in Angeles city around 3 in the afternoon; while the Pampanga leg, starting caravan around Hacienda Dolores in Porac town, then protest in front of the municipal hall, then around Angeles city and joining the protest in Clark. The farmers protest was supported by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) – Central Luzon, Workers’ Alliance in Region III (War 3), Anakbayan – Central Luzon and Kadamay – Pampanga and various groups in Angeles city.
The farmer groups boldly demanded the ouster of BS Aquino basing on three keypoints. (1) The land reform issue in the region, claiming that BS Aquino has not effected fundamental reforms such as the distribution of lands to poor farmers, instead, promoted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with “Reforms” (Carper).
• BS Aquino has also advanced the interests of rich landlords, such as his family, thus, sabotaging land distribution in Hacienda Luisita.
• The 2,000-hectare Hacienda Dolores in Porac town is now a site of agrarian dispute with Ayala Land and its dummy corporations incessantly harassed farmers whose ancestors have cultivated the lands since the Spanish colonial times. Last January 13, Ayala Land’s security forces killed a farmer, Arman Padiño and wounded Noel Tumali. Ayala Land plans to convert the lands into an estate similar to the Nuvali project in Sta. Rosa city, Laguna.
• In Nueva Ecija, the implementation of Carper has only threatened farmers who cultivated the lands, preserved the haciendas and the control of big landlords. Hacienda Gabaldon, Kilantang, Anggara in Guimba town, Rueda in Quezon town, De Santos in Guimba, Cuyapo and Nampicuan towns, Tinio in Talavera town, and estates Ilagan, Gonzales, Domingo, Sanggalang, Joson, Angeles, Padre Crisostomo Estate in many towns of the province remained intact and farmers are facing foreclosure cases and cancellation of certificate of land ownership awards (cloa), certificate of land transfer (clt) and emancipation patents (ep).
• In Casiguran town, Aurora, 13,000-hectares of land were covered by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) project masterminded by the Angaras. Thousands of farmers, indigenous peoples and residents are affected but BS Aquino has promoted the project.
• In Bayambang town, BS Aquino’s related firm, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Realty Corp. (CAT Realty) is grabbing about 400-hectares of land and displacing farmers whose predecessors lived before the American colonial times.
• In San Miguel town, Bulacan, about 375-hectares of land are being grabbed former Camarines Sur representative Luis Villafuerte. Villafuerte through his daughter’s Green Eart Heritage Foundation plans to convert the area into an eco-tourism zone.
• In Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan provinces, farmers are common victims of land grabbing and displacement where their lands are being subjected to land use conversion while in Zambales, farmers and Ayta communities were displaced by mining operations.
(2) The second point the groups stressed that BS Aquino hopeless on the protection of human rights. Instead of learning from the brutal and bloody effects of Operational Plan (Oplan) Bantay Laya of the corrupt Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, BS Aquino implemented Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) which is no different from its preceeding program. The groups said that extra-judicial killings (ejk), harassment and filing of trumped up charges are the main ingredients of OpBay. It is based from the United States Counter-insurgency (coin) guide, implementing triad operations such as combat, intelligence and civic-military operations.
Oplan Bayanihan resulted the killings of Pascual Guevarra, peasant leader opposing land grabbing and displacement in Fort Magsaysay military reservation, Laur town, Nueva Ecija; Rolando Villarosa, peasant leader in Cabanatuan city, Nueva Ecija; Arman Maximino, peasant leader in Dinalungan town, Aurora, Boyet Ibarra of San Jose town, Tarlac; Dennis Dela Cruz, farm worker of Hacienda Luisita. Supporters of farmers were also killed such as the Dutch dev’t worker Willem Geertman of Alay Bayan; Bayan Muna leader Waldo Palispis of Maria Aurora town, Aurora; transport leader Felicino Infante of Angeles city and urban poor youth John Khali Lagrimas of Tarlac city.
Harassment, intimidation and threat are usual attacks against farmers in the region such as occured to Ernesto Bubod, Igorot leader and Fernando Salazar, peasant leader, both of Carranglan town; Florention Pagatpatan, Jr., peasant leader in Guimba town in Nueva Ecija; Rodolfo Sambajon, fishefolk leader in Bataan and former chairperson of Pamalakaya – Pilipinas; farmers of Hacienda Luisita; and Hacienda Dolores; and farmers of former Camp Gregg military reservation in Bayambang town, Pangasinan; and farmers who opposed the Tplex project in Tarlac city and land grabbing in La Paz town, Tarlac. Farmers are typical victims of trumped up charges putting them to jail illegally and their basic rights violated. Government forces such as the police and military are the main perpetrators as they serve as private security forces of big landlords and businesses.
(3) The groups put BS Aquino’s puppetry to US imperialism such as the implementation of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program or government projects that violate farmers’ rights to land. The government plan W-Growth Corridor as part of the Medium-Term Philippine Dev’t Plan (Mtpdp) advised by the World Bank – Int’l Monetary Fund (WB-IMF) for the region is bound to displace farmers from lands targeted for conversion. It is pinpointed by eco-zones and industrial hubs in the region namely, Masinloc Eco Zone (Zambales), Subic Bay Special Economic Zone and Freeport (Zambales), Bataan Technology Park in Morong, Bataan Export Processing Zone in Mariveles, Clark Special Eco Zone, Hacienda Luisita Eco Zone, Hermosa (Bataan) Eco Zone, Magalang (Pampanga) MADCI, Philippine Jewelry Center in Meycauayan, Bulacan, Gapan, Cabanatuan city and Science city of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija, then towards Baler and Dingalan freeport in Aurora. This plan is precursored by the Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (Mlub) composed by the privatization of the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex), construction of Sctex, Tplex, Central Luzon Expressway (Clex) and North Luzon East Expressway (Nlex east). The construction of superhighways are converting and planning to convert about 1,222.6-hectares, Tplex has covered about 442.6-hectares, while Clex and Nlex East are planning to convert about 780-hectares.
The expansion of Clark freeport zone and planned Clark Green City – Clark Highlands are threatening farmers in Pampanga and Tarlac. Farmers and Ayta around Clark freeport zone were victims of land grabbing and harassment such as the case of farmers belonging to the CABCOM Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Ayta farmers of Sitio Target of brgy. Sapang Bato and brgy. Margot in Angeles city. While Clark Green City plans to cover 36,000-hectares in Capas and Bamban town in Tarlac while Clark Highlands about 11,000-hectares in Sacobia valley in Mabalacat city, Pampanga. The groups said that these projects are believed to displace tens of thousands of farmers and Ayta.
As BS Aquino allowed the expanding Balikatan military exercises as part of the Visiting Forces Agreement, these only worsened the displacement of farmers from the lands covered such as Fort Magsaysay military reservation in Nueva Ecija, Crow Valley Gunnery and Firing Range, Camp O’ Donnell military reservation both in Capas, Tarlac, Clark freeport zone, Subic Bay freeport zone and US Naval Communication Station in brgy. San Miguel, San Antonio town in Zambales. It is becoming a standard operating procedure to bar farmers from cultivating their lands and fisherfolk from the seas during these exercises, while, in Capas, Ayta communities were displaced from their farms.
The groups also cited the submission to World Trade Organization (WTO) and liberalization of agriculture as major causes of bankruptcies of farmers’ livelihood. Imported and smuggled onions entering the Dingalan port in Aurora and being stocked in Nueva Ecija are putting the Bongabon onion farmers to debt and poverty. In addition, the swelling rice imports have continued to depress farm gate prices of palay while the introduction of hybrid rice and genetically-modified organisms (gmo) such as golden rice are threatening traditional varieties causing farmers high cost of production, consequently debt and landlessness.
“These three points are majorly confronted by the farmers in the region. These are all public knowledge but are yet to be dissented against entirely, thus, we farmers, the majority in the region are starting off to wave the flag for BS Aquino’s ouster. The farmers are losing the lands their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers have nurtured for many decades, while other sectors are facing high prices of basic commodities, endless oil price hikes, costly rent, electricity and water rates, tuition fees for your children’s education, high taxes, unemployment, low wages, demolitions and many more. BS Aquino has proven his standpoint and it is clear that he is partial to the interests of big landlords, rich local and foreign business and US imperialism. We have nothing to hope from BS Aquino, thus, we must demand his removal from office and we are doing justice for the victims of Mendiola massacre and other human rights abuses,” Canlas ended. #