NEWS RELEASE 

Farmers and rights groups: #StopKillingFarmers! Free land distribution now!

A day before the first anniversary of the Kidapawan massacre and two days before the scheduled resumption of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), hundreds of farmers, human rights defenders and peace advocates held a protest action today at Mendiola Bridge to condemn the escalating extra judicial killings against farmers and to call on both panels of the peace negotiations to expedite the signing of a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER) that will provide for, among others, the free land distribution to Filipino farmers.

#StopKillingFarmers

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the #StopKillingFarmers Network said that the campaign of killing farmers by state agents unleashed by the previous Aquino administration as exemplified by the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan on April 1, 2016, continues to terrorize the countryside under the present Duterte government.

“Since July last year, extra judicial killings of farmers, indigenous peoples, workers and activists have already taken 46 lives, the rate of which sharply increasing since the Armed Forces of the Philippines declared an all-out war against the CPP-NPA-NDFP in February,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.

In Compostela Valley alone, according to Flores, ten farmers have already been killed, all active participants in the struggle for land reform and the campaign to drive away military troops from civilian peasant communities.

“The government’s so-called Development Support and Security Plan or Oplan Kapayapaan is a mere continuation of previous regimes’ fascist and US-instigated counter insurgency programs that have failed miserably to address the root causes of the armed conflict and instead took a great number of civilian lives,” Flores said.

According to KMP, while it considers the resumption of the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP as a positive development, President Duterte, in his capacity as commander-in-chief, should order the scrapping of Oplan Kapayapaan and effect the immediate pull out of AFP troops in the countryside.

Free land distribution and peace

The fourth round of the peace talks this April will continue to deliberate and try to harmonize the respective CASER drafts of both panels amid the calls of peasant groups and various sectors for genuine agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization.

The KMP said that it will keenly follow the developments during the fourth round of talks specifically concerning the CASER provisions on agrarian reform which it believes should adopt a program of free land distribution.

“Landlessness of farmers is still among the major problems of the people, causing perpetual poverty and hunger, especially as all the land reform programs of past regimes have failed. The gravity of the land problem continues to compel farmers to organize themselves and struggle for social justice even as they become targets of brutal force by the military and other armed instruments of a state that generally protects the interest of big landlords and foreign corporations,” Flores said.

Mindanao contingent

Present in the Mendiola protest action were around 70 members of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) who travelled all the way from Madaum, Tagum City in Southern Mindanao to bring their urgent issues to Malacanang, particulary concerning the allegedlandgrabbingof their lands and the violence being committed against them by the Lapanday Foods Corp. (LFC), a fresh fruit production company owned by the Lorenzo landlord family.

The farmworker-beneficiaries are calling for the junking of the Agribusiness Ventures Agreement (AVA) that Lapanday is said to be using as legal basis to take over 119.25 hectares of lands intended for MARBAI and its 159 members. Despite MARBAI not being a party to the said AVA, Lapanday’s claims has resulted in the dispossession of the farmworkers and the constant harassment and violent attacks by Lapanday armed security forces against the farmers group. #