All set for Visayas-leg of national peasant caravan

Cebu City—Around 5,000 strong and determined Visayas Lakbayanis will troop to Cebu City on October 17-20 for Lakbayan ng Visayas 2017: Visayas Rural

Poor Summit and Camp-out to condemn the the Duterte administration for aggravating the poverty situation of the rural poor through continued implementation of neoliberal policies.

Spearheaded by local chapters of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in Negros and Central Visayas, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Unyon ng mga Manggagawang Agrikultura (UMA), and Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-PILIPINAS), the four-day camp also aims to register the assertion of Visayan people to their right to life and livelihood that is trampled upon and violated by the current administration.

“The people in the Visayas can no longer hold our silence amidst the massive hunger and extreme poverty that we are experiencing brought by the neoliberal policies implemented and intensified by the US-Duterte administration,” said John Ruiz, coordinator of Bayan Muna Central Visayas.

According to government data in 2012, more than two million people in the Visayas could not afford to eat three square meals daily.

“Currently, more than 300,000 sugar workers and more than 2 million of their dependents are going hungry as they experience the Tiempo Muerto or dead season,” said Michael Dela Concepcion, Secretary General of BAYAN Negros.

“How could they even afford to buy a kilo of rice if they only get Php8-17 daily for four to six months during tiempo muerto?,” asked Dela Concepcion.

During this season, sugar workers stop or slow down from working in the sugarcane fields as they wait for the harvest season.

Nick Abasolo, chairperson of KMP-Cebu pointed the irony that farmers who till the lands and ensure food for the nation are the very ones who are foodless and exploited.

“Tungod kay ang atong gobyerno gipasibayaan niya ang pagpalambo sa atong agrikultura, ang pinakaimportante unta nga tinubdan sa pagkaon para mabuhi ang katawhang Pilipino, kasagaran sa amuang mga mag-uuma halos dili na makakaon katulo sa usa ka adlaw (Because our government has abandoned its responsibility to develop our agriculture, the most important source of food, majority of us farmers cannot afford to feed ourselves three times a day),” said Abasolo.

According to Abasolo, one of the reasons why millions of the peasant sector and fisherfolks are experiencing hunger is because of land and crop conversion that does not promote food security but lure the people for instant money.

“Land and crop conversion only buried us in more debt, destroyed the productivity our lands displaced us from our primary livelihood. These policies are not intended for food and agricultural sustainability but only for profit of big landowners and capitalists,” he added.

Aside from the deafening growl of the farmers’ hungry stomach is their increasing clamor for justice over successive killings, attacks, and harassments experienced by many peasant groups and their members.

Nagpakahilum-hilom lang ang among lokal nga pang gobyerno ug awtoridad sa walay undang nga pagpamatay sa among mga kaubang mag-uuma (Our local government and authorities remained silent amidst the series of killings of our colleagues),” said Marilou Alangilang, Secretary General of Kahugpungan sa Ugma sa mga Gagmayng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON-KMP).

Starting July this year, eight reported cases of extra-judicial killings have been recorded in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental alone. Victims were members of progressive peasant and people’s organizations.

Alangilang and her group forwarded their complaint to the Commission on Human Rights Region VII last September 21 after getting series of death threats and harassment from suspected members of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines but the commission has not given any legal remedy after almost a month of receiving their complaint.

Cases of vilifications, threats, and other human rights violations from suspected armed elements of the government against the members of local peasant groups in Bohol and Samar were also recorded.

“Martial Law is only implemented in Mindanao but it seems that we are also under Martial Law because of the spate of killings and human rights violations in Visayas,” said Jaime Paglinawan, Chairperson of BAYAN Central Visayas.

Paglinawan also expressed his dismay to the government after launching three kinds of war: the war against drugs, war against the revolutionaries, and war against moro.

“The victims of the all-out war are always the poor, the vocal critics of the government, and Filipino people,” said Paglinawan.

According to him, while the government can allocate big chunk of fund for bullets and guns it neglected its responsibility to feed its people by developing our agricultural sector.

The Lakbayan ng Visayas 2017 will also hold a Visayas Rural Poor Summit which targets to collate the specific issues and demands of farmers, farm workers, and fisherfolks all over the Visayas and at the same time, will forward these to concerned government agencies.

“No significant change has arrived for the majority but marginalized sector in the society! They even promoted schemes to uplift the interest of the big oligarchs of landlords and businessmen through their proposed Tax Reform Acceleration with Inclusions (TRAIN) which will impose added tax to basic commodities without plans of increasing the wages of the workers. This will further add burden to the poor Filipino people,” stated by Ruiz.

This is the second time that various progressive peoples’ organizations from the Visayas will hold such activity.

The first was a week-long activity in National Capital Region to bring the issues and problems of the Visayan people to the capital in December 2016.

This year’s Lakbayanis targeted to put up its main camp site in Plaza Independencia and its satellite camps around Cebu City.