More than 300 members of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA – TK, KMP Southern Tagalog), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL, KMP Central Luzon) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) flooded the Mendiola bridge and planned a 2-day vigil until president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s 100th day in office.  

The peasant groups are demanding the Aquino government to implement fundamental reforms such as genuine land reform, justice for victims of rights abuses and the prosecution of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  They have submitted their demands on June 30 at Mendiola bridge, immediately after Aquino swore in at the Quirino grandstand.

Peasant Sentry for Land Reform
“We are on a 48-hour vigil for our demands to be carried out or else his presidency is doomed to face more and intensified peasant protests.  We are transforming our camp-out into a peasant sentry for land reform and justice,” Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson said.

“Aquino should start thinking seriously if he could as his 100th day is paralleled with people’s protests.  Almost everywhere in the country there are protests.  It is a symptom that his government has disappointed the people, majorly the peasants whom he betrayed when he promised ‘change’ during the elections,” Flores said.

The first night of the peasant vigil would be marked with “Battle of Mendiola,” a rock concert led by Artist Arrest, a group of artists supportive of the struggle for land and justice.

In addition, KASAMA – TK has long been pressing the Aquino government to distribute hacienda lands to the peasants, particularly Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna, Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas and agricultural lands in Rizal.  Southern Tagalog farmers have majorly manned the “100-Day Peasant Camp-out for Land and Justice” that is now set-up in front of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform Central Office in Quezon City.

Straight from Central Luzon, members of AMGL and AMBALA has long been campaigning for land distribution such as the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, 3,100-hectare agricultural lands in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija, as well as the 200-hectare agricultural lands in Bgy. Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Del Monte and the 375-hectare highly productive lands in Bgy. Sibol, San Miguel, both in Bulacan province.  The groups are also struggling against the landgrabbing of Rep. Luis Villafuerte and the “jueteng” family Pinedas of Lubao, Pampanga.

“Where the hell is change? Peasants are still landless and landlords like Aquino continuously exploit from their toil.  There is no change, if there is, it is not fundamental, only the sex, age and marital status have change but the anti-peasant and anti-people programs and policies of the Arroyo government have been incessantly implemented by Aquino.  Worse, we are the first casualties of this chameleon government when our camp-out at Mendiola was dispersed July 3 and 42 of us were arrested while 11 were wounded,” Axel Pinpin exclaimed, Secretary-General of KASAMA – TK.

“The more he ignores us, the closer we would get.  Our struggle for rights to land is eternal, presidents change but our aspiration for genuine land reform never ends.  The issue of land would tear Aquino apart and definitely lose control.  His message in transmission is total assault on, exploitation and oppression of peasants,” Pinpin added.

“There is no love lost between him and the peasantry as his and his family’s record is pitch black when it comes to land reform.  His fascist dogs could take Pascual Guevarra’s life but they could not take the peasant movement’s pride is pursuing land and justice,” Joseph Canlas, Chair of AMGL.

“The Cojuangco-Aquinos should wake-up that the reign of feudal lords has long been condemned in history.  They may look contemporary but their attitude towards peasants is hundreds of years backward, antiquated and primitive.  They should surrender to the peasants’ clamor for Hacienda Luisita to be distributed to the farmworkers or they would regret in the coming years,” said Felix Nacpil, chair of AMBALA.

KMP has criticized the Aquino government for not hearing the Filipino peasants grievances for fundamental reforms such as the implementation of a genuine land reform program and giving justice to victims of human rights violations during the Arroyo government.  They have also lambasted Aquino’s conscious omission of the land issue on his inaugural speech, SONA and other declaration.  The group said that Aquino is running away from peasant issues that he know would expose his partiality to landlords and foreign investors through his planned Public-Private Partnership program.

The groups said that peasants nationwide have been clamoring for land distribution such as the campaign of KMP Negros where used to be farmworkers of sugarlands carried out their “bungkalan” (cultivation) and transformed idle sugarlands into rice farms, fruits and vegetables.  About 6,000-hectares in Negros, including those controlled by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, have been cultivated by farmers and now they serve as primary source of livelihood.  In retaliation, landlords and land speculators have filed various charges against the farmers such as trespassing, arson, malicious mischief and more.  KMP Negros is calling for the Aquino government to stop criminalizing agrarian cases.

Bright yellow gun against peasants
“All he has is a bright yellow gun, he has nothing to offer but confusion to the people.  He has no plans of realizing genuine land reform, thus, he is decisively assaulting the peasant movement.  Guevarra was killed on July 9, inside the 3,100-hectare lands of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, followed by 2 from Paquibato District, Davao City, the Masbate Massacre killing 4 in Mobo town, a copra farmer in Mawab, Compostela Valley and the latest Rene Quirante was killed on October 1 at Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.  Peasant victims of extra-judicial killings now reach to 9, and another 2 from Rizal is being verified,” Flores said who is also a co-convenor of Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights).

The groups are also calling for the immediate release of Dario Tomada, a former peasant leader of SAGUPA – SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) who was arrested on July 22 and being charged with the alleged ‘mass murder’ in Inopacan, Leyte.  In addition, Felicidad Caparal, organizer of agricultural workers was arrested on January 27, 2009 in Lavezares, Northern Samar and accused of being a member of the New People’s Army though she was only to fetch her mother for medical treatment in Manila.  Peasants also call for the freedom of Eddie Cruz, farmers from Montalban, Rizal arrested on June 12, Antipolo 4 (Rizal), Talisay 3 (Batangas), Cadiz 4 and Guihulngan 2 (Negros), Buenavista 5 (Bohol), Myrna Cruz of Anakpawis Partylist – Cagayan Valley, peasant health worker Emilia Marquez and Morong 43.

Tanggol Magsasaka is also calling for the immediate end of militarization in the countryside, particularly in Rizal, Quezon, towns of Northern Samar and Leyte, Surigao del Sur, Paquibato District of Davao City and Compostela Valley.

Peasants grade Aquino Zero
Peasants who sustained the 100-Day Peasant Camp-out for Land and Justice are on tight watch of Aquino’s declaration of his ‘achievements’ of his first 100 days as president.  Aquino has yet to positively respond to their demands, thus, farmers are geared to further drum up agrarian issues to totally confront his government.

“This is very significant to us, as this would decide Aquino’s fate in the remaining years of his term.  To date, all he has done was to serve his landlord class, oppress the Filipino peasants.  Thus, we give him zero as grade for his first 100 days,” Flores said.  #

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