Freedom and justice, still elusive under the Aquino government
Leaders and members of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and families of peasant political prisoners belonging to Tanggol Magsasaka and Freedom for Tomada Network fast to call for the freedom of “Morong 43” and peasant political prisoners across the country. They are joined by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA - TK, KMP Southern Tagalog) and Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA).
The groups are calling for the immediate releases of the 43 health workers who were arrested on February 6, 2010 and accused as being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), Dario Tomada, peasant leader of SAGUPA – SB (KMP Eastern Visayas), Felicidad Caparal, organizer of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, agri-workers), Antipolo 4 (Rizal), Talisay 3 (Batangas), Cadiz 4 and Guihulngan 2 (Negros), Buenavista 5 (Bohol) and other political prisoners who were members KMP local organizations and progressive groups.
“There are so many political prisoners still incarcerated for trumped-up charges they are innocent of. Most of them are accused as members of the NPA and charged with murder, multiple murder and other related cases,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka Co-convenor who joined the fasting.
“Majority of the political prisoners are peasants who are struggling for Genuine Land Reform. They are members of legal and democratic organizations, such as our local chapters, but the government continues to politically persecute them, branding them as members of NPA and blaming them of fabricated charges,” Flore said.
Tanggol Magsasaka said that Dario Tomada, who fled from Eastern Visayas to escape the series of extra-judicial killings in the region during Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan’s “reign of terror” in 2006 was arrested July 22 in Biñan, Laguna and accused as responsible to the alleged “mass murders” in Inopacan, Leyte. The group said that Tomada is totally innocent of the crime as he was still not a member of any organization when the alleged crime took place. The group added that he was indeed an internal refugee who in turn took odd jobs to support his family in Kanangga, Leyte.
In addition, Felicidad Caparal, organizer of UMA, was arrested January 27, 2009 in Lavezares town, Northern Samar when she was about to fetch her mother for medical treatment in Manila. Caparal is being charged as a member of NPA and involved in an ambush of military soldiers in Catarman, Northern Samar on December 2002. She is detained at Bobon Provincil Jail in Northern Samar for more than 1 and a half year.
“Caparal’s case is total fabrication as she just gave birth to her first child on the date of the case accused of her, and for many years she was already with UMA, she was with us during our commemoration of the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 2009,” Flores said.
“We are also affiriming that Emilia Marquez, one of the ‘Morong 43’ is indeed a health worker at their peasant community as she joined us at our camp-out in front of the Congress in April to May of 2008, to call for the junking of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ or CARPer and the passage of then House Bill 3059 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill or GARB,” Flores added.
“At present, the Aquino government has yet to act on their cases, thus, day-by-day, their rights are continuously violated. As far as we know, this is the only administration who did not release any political prisoners on its instatement,” Flores said.
The groups added that president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who boasted of being a candidate of “democracy” and “change” during the last presidential election has ignored protecting human rights and in effect trampling down democracy.
“Aquino is really a big disappointment to us peasants. He is not for democracy and human rights. He extended Oplan Bantay Laya and particularly on Hacienda Luisita, he did nothing towards its distribution to the farmworkers,” Flores said.
Aside from the immediate release of political prisoners, the peasant groups are also calling for justice for victims of human rights abuses during the Arroyo government. Tanggol Magsasaka said that 561 peasants were victims of extra-judicial killings, where 118 were KMP leaders. Enforced disappearances victimized 129 peasant leaders and activists and many were accused of trumped-up charges.
Leaders of AMBALA who joined the fasting also called for justice for the victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre and extra-judicial killings.
KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka renewed their call for freedom and justice as peasants continue to be major targets of the government counter-insurgency program. The groups said that until genuine land reform is not realized, peasant struggle would continue to intensify. #