(From left) Peasant political prisoners
Dario Tomada and Felicidad Caparal
The militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA – TK, KMP Southern Tagalog) and Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) renewed their call to release peasant and political prisoners on the anniversary of the declaration of martial law on September 21.  The groups said as peasants struggle for their rights to land, they become primary targets of human rights abuses usually perpetrated by state forces, particularly the military and police.

“We call for the immediate release of our comrades who are accused of crimes they did not commit.  The Aquino government at present continues to ignore and is continuously violating their basic rights,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka Co-convenor who joined the rally at Mendiola bridge, Manila, led by Karapatan group and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka said that the Aquino government has not effect any change on the trend of human rights abuses against peasants.  On July 22, Dario Tomada, a former leader of SAGUPA – SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) was arrested in Biñan, Laguna and accused of the “mass murder” in Inopacan, Leyte, that allegedly took place sometime in 1985.  The groups added that peasant victims of extra-judicial killings reached to 7, one from Nueva Ecija, 2 from Davao City and 4 from Masbate province.  They added that Pascual Guevarra, an elderly peasant leader inside the 3,100-hectare agricultural lands of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) was the first, killed on July 9 at his house at Bgy. San Isidro, Laur town.

Aside from Tomada, the groups are calling for the immediate release of Felicidad Caparal, who was arrested January 27, 2009 at Lavezares town, Northern Samar.  Caparal is an organizer of the national-based Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, the umbrella-organization of agricultural workers where Hacienda Luisita farmworkers Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) and United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) belong.  Tanggol Magsasaka said that she was to fetch her mother for medical attention in Manila when she was abducted on a military checkpoint, became incommunicado for 7 days and announced by the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“Caparal was with us during our commemoration of the Mendiola Massacre on January 2009.  Actually she was with us for years, at our rallies for genuine land reform, protests against rice importation and other issues.  She is not a member of the NPA, she is a peasant activist, a mother and a wife.  The accusations against her are total fabrications,” Flores said.

Caparal is accused of involvement with a December 2002 NPA ambuscade on elements of the military.  Tanggol Magsasaka said that her family argued that she could not be with the NPA as she is pregnant with her first child.

The groups are also calling for the immediate release of peasant political prisoners such as Eddie Cruz and Antipolo 4 (Rizal), Talisay 3 (Batangas), Cadiz 4 and Guihulngan 2 (Negros), Buenavista 5, Emilia Marquez and the rest of Morong 43.

“The Aquino government continues to prove itself as anti-peasant with the extended implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya, the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program.  It is mainly composed of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and ‘arrest and detention,’” Flores said.

Tanggol Magsasaka said that during the Arroyo government, 561 peasants became victims of EJK with 133 of them being KMP leaders.  In addition, 129 were victims of enforced disappearances such as Nilo Arado of PAMANGGAS – Panay (KMP Panay), Jonas Burgos of AMB (KMP Bulacan) and Manuel Merino, the farmer abducted with University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

The groups also condemn Aquino’s inaction to prosecute Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on her anti-people and anti-peasant programs and policies.

“The Aquino government is worsening the situation, as president Aquino is not able to serve justice to those violated, he extended the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya.  At present, the military is drafting a new counter-insurgency program dictated by the US Counterinsurgency Guide,” Flores said.

“Aquino who boast being an advocate of ‘democracy’ is doing the exact opposite and the very essence of Martial Law.  Under Aquino, land reform remains a dream, and human rights is continuously violated,” he added.

“It is only a matter of time until Aquino’s ‘yellow fever’ on the people is totally eradicated.  Actually, the basic masses never believed his promises of ‘change’ during elections, thus, we call on all sectors to continue struggling for justice for the victims of human rights violations and genuine land reform in the country,” Flores called. #

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