“This is the third time he did not mention about land reform, following his inaugural and SONA speech. This is already intentional and it is clear that he is not a leader enough to face the land issue,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson.
“Aquino’s omission of the land issue on his 100-days report is an indicator of his intellect and leadership competence. He does not comprehend the scale of the landlessness issue and the implication of his continuous negligence of the farmers,” Axel Pinpin, KASAMA-TK Secretary-General said.
“He is scared of us [Hacienda Luisita farmers]. He knows the land issue is his quicksand, being a hard-core landlord from the Cojuangco-Aquinos who are clinging on their control over the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita,” Felix Nacpil said, AMBALA chair.
The groups are now on the third day of resilient protest at Mendiola which they dubbed as “Battle of Mendiola.” They have been on protest since October 6 and attempted to set camp but elements of the Manila police as ordered by Malacañang already dispersed them twice. The farmer groups condemned the violent dispersals and are demanding Aquino to resolve the land problem and bring out fundamental reforms to Filipino peasants that are the majority in the country.
“He blabbered about cancelling bonuses of government officials, suspending government projects, again criticizing again the former Arroyo government, sacking the PAGASA chief, this and that, but not touching the most fundamental problem in the country that is landlessness,” Flores said.
The groups said that he even acted as an opposition of the P18.5-billion Laguna Lake dredging project when his own justice secretary Leila De Lima issued a statement that it not covered by the government’s bidding process.
“He is totally lying and grandstanding when the exact opposite is being pursued by his government. All those he mentioned are very far from the farmers’ belly, farmers and their families could not eat that. They are all useless to farmers when we are being kicked out of our farms, Aquino should work for our lands to be distributed to us,” said Flores.
The groups are primarily demanding Aquino to push Genuine Land Reform, particularly the distribution of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna and Hacienda Looc, in Nasugbu, Batangas. These areas have imminent threats of dislocation of farmers, thus, groups are tencious in drumming up the issue. In addition, with Aquino’s inaction of their issues, the groups gave Aquino a grade of “zero” for his first 100-days in office.
“His presidency did nothing end to end the dislocation of farmers from the lands of haciendas, 3,100-hectare lands of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija, 2,074-hectare lands in Alangalang, Leyte, 13,000-hectare Hacienda Santa Isabel and San Antonio in Ilagan, Isabela and many more. Aquino is no hope for the Filipino farmers who are longing for Genuine Land Reform,” said Flores.
No justice, continuing rights abuses
“He is brutal, he continued in criticizing the hated Arroyo government but he continued its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, he never mentioned anything about human rights violations. His first 100-days tolled 9 peasant victims of extra-judicial killings, the latest was Rene Quirante of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental) killed on October 1 and the latest political prisoners were Darwin Liwag and 2 peasant activists. Liwag is the Vice-Chair of KASAMA-TK and Secretary-General of PUMALAG (KMP Laguna),” Pinpin said.
“Liwag was with us at our press conference at the peasant camp-out in front of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on September 29, he joined the protest against the P18.5 Laguna Lake dredging project on September 23, in front of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), now he was arrested and being accused as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). This is an all-out attack of the Aquino government against the peasant movement,” shared Pinpin.
The groups are also calling for the Aquino government to end the rights abuses against peasants and give justice to the victims. Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) reported that 9 were victims of extra-judicial killings, including Pascual Guevarra, a 78-year old farmer inside the 3,100-hectare Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, 2 from Paquibato District in Davao City, 4 peasants including a high school student were massacred in Mobo town, Masbate, a copra farmer in Mawab, Compostela Valley and Quirante from Negros. The human rights group also said that 2 peasants were abducted and still missing in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur since September 1.
They are also calling for the immediate release of Liwag and 2 of his colleagues, Dario Tomada, a peasant leader from Eastern Visayas arrested July 22, Felicidad Caparal of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and groups of peasant political prisoners in various jails across the country.
Burning down the "Haciendero Republic"
As symbol of the groups over-flowing protest, they burned an mock presidential seal written with “Republika ng Haciendero” at Mendiola bridge. They are on the conclusion of the 3-day Battle of Mendiola and the groups said that they are successful in exposing Aquino as an anti-peasant haciendero president.
“We were ignored, we were beaten up, we are being killed and arrested. The Aquino government is a ‘Haciendero Republic’ and we are burning it down at the very foot of Mendiola bridge. The Filipino people witnessed how insensitive and brutal Aquino is,” Pinpin said.
“It is crystal clear that Aquino is an enemy of the Filipino peasants. He is only capable of monkey jokes. We vow to launch more protest to put his back against the wall and work for Genuine Land Reform. Aquino is destroying his already dwindling down artifical popularity, in due time, no paid survey firms and media apologists could ever save his incompetent presidency,” said Flores. #