Violent dispersal of peasants confirms Aquino's anti-people stance
The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK, KMP Southern Tagalog) condemned the violent dispersal of their camp-out at Mendiola by the Manila Police District (MPD) headed by Gen. Rodolfo Magtibay. The dispersal resulted the mass arrest of 42 peasants and supporters, 11 injured with 3 severe cases. There were also 14 minors aged 14 to 17 years old.
“We strongly condemn the violent dispersal of our peaceful protest camp in Mendiola to demand the Aquino government to include genuine land reform in his agenda. We hold the Aquino government and Manila police responsible for the violation of our basic rights and we would continue to protest until our legitimate demands are heard and justice served,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.
Peasants from Southern Tagalog manning the camp-out said that they were dispersed without warning and the police were on an offensive and abusive posture. Leaders from KASAMA-TK said that without notice or warning men from the engineering office of the Manila City Hall tried to tear down their camp-out and when they questioned it, about 200 elements of the Manila police armed with shields and truncheons started arresting them and chasing them towards Legarda street near the LRT station.
The peasant leaders said that they tried to negotiate and decided to dismantle the camp-out but the police unabashedly struck them with truncheons and arrested all of those who tried to talk them down. They arrested 38 peasants and supporters at Mendiola and another 4 at Manila police district when supporters attempted to visit them to prevent further rights abuses on those earlier arrested. At the MPD Headquarters, even arriving lawyers were barred to immediately attend their clients.
“This is unacceptable under the new government who claims to push change, boasts of being democratic and pro-people. The Aquino government is no different from its predecessor Arroyo regime, implementing same-old fascist tactics to trample on our basic rights,” he added.
Disregard, violence answer to legitimate demands
KMP and KASAMA-TK said that they were pushed to set-up their camp-out as they were being barred to approach Malacanang to present their immediate and legitimate demands last June 30 immediately after Noynoy Aquino’s inaugural at the Quirino Grandstand. The groups said that Aquino’s office only sent its representative when they noticed the peasants were already camping out.
“We were pushed to wait for hours as they did not allow us to go to Malacanang, even Gen. Magtibay offered to receive our letter but it is illogical for us to give our legitimate calls to an official not belonging to a civilian office or authority. We were only entertained by Malacanang when they saw us setting our camps. If we did not, they would definitely continue to ignore us and treat us like garbage on streets,” Ramos said.
The groups said that as early as June 30, just hours after he promised that the people are his boss or quoted as “Kayo ang boss ko, kaya’t hindi maaaring hindi ako makinig sa mga utos ninyo. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to the people’s needs and aspirations,” his office consciously disregarded the peasants at Mendiola.
KMP and KASAMA-TK also protested the exclusion of genuine land reform on Aquino’s inaugural speech.
KASAMA-TK is presently pressing government agencies to resolve the issue of 7,100-hectare Hacienda Yulo, where the Yulo family through its controlled corporations are displacing farmers who are cultivating the 500-hectare coconut lands for about a century. Farmers are now being harassed as elements of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines were deployed at their communities, taking pictures of residents and their houses, doing rounds and scaring people with their high-powered firearms. The checkpoint manned by Yulo’s private security guards also prohibits transport of their agricultural products out of the area. KASAMA-TK is immediately calling Noynoy Aquino to stop the militarization, economic sanction and illegal cutting of coconut trees in Hacienda Yulo.
Upon receiving the letter of peasants, KMP and KASAMA-TK vowed to wait for concrete gains as they learned lessons in dialogues at offices of Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Dept. of Agriculture (DA) and other agencies. They were used to being victims of empty promises or “mga pangakong napako” usually implied by “pag-aaralan, titingnan ang magagawa” issued by government officials which then pushed them to set-up camps and wait for Aquino’s concrete response to their demands.
“We continued our camp-out and just on our third day and also of the Aquino presidency, it unleashed its fascist attack on the people and dispersed us mercilessly. Disregard and violence were the apparent response of Noynoy Aquino to our legitimate demands,” Ramos said.
Snowballing support and exposé of Aquino government
The groups believe that they were dispersed to prevent snowballing support and further exposé of Aquino government as anti-peasant and anti-people.
On June 30, Hacienda Luisita agri-workers and farmers joined the camp-out and called for the immediate distribute of lands, stop of heightening militarization and justice for the victims of Hacienda Luisita massacre. Federico Laza, father of Jesus Laza, the massacre-victim who was caught on video while dying, joined the camp-out and called on Aquino to distribute the lands and give justice to those killed.
The following day, more than 100 workers from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) rallied and joined the camp-out calling for P125 across-the-board wage increase, repeal of the expanded value-added tax (E-VAT) law and stop to anti-labor practices of capitalists. On July 2, about 500 youth-students led by the League of the Filipino Students (LFS) rallied to call for the end to commercialization of education, increase state subsidies and stop to tuition fee increases. In addition, sectoral groups such as church groups, medical personnels, teachers and other multi-sectoral groups supported the camp-out.
“We see this as nipping the bud, Aquino trying to stop the increasing people’s protest early that show his true colors as landlord, anti-peasant, pro-imperialist, anti-people and fascist. He is no different to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” said Ramos.
“Thus, if Aquino continues to claim he is for the people, we challenge him to immediately talk to us and exactly do what he promised on his inaugural speech, punish the police who committed abuse on peasants and allow us to freely express our grievances at Mendiola. If he is not able to do this things, his presidency is useless and without sense,” Ramos called. #