In the absence of a genuine agrarian reform program and not wanting to wait for more decades,
farmers in Negros collectively cultivate idle lands, the concretization of their struggle for land and justice
October. 31, 2010
■ A forum on the peasant struggle in Negros and Hacienda Luisita
■ Video of Forum lectures
■ Solidarity Night with Negros farmers
“Bungkalan” is the widely coordinated, organized and simultaneous cultivation of idle lands that used to be sugarlands. Despite the constant threat and danger, farmers have, for the first tiem, pushed through their cultivation and succeded in transforming sugarlands into productive agricultural lands..
But it was not an easy task. The first attempt of the farmers on December 2, 2008 to cultivate lands in Bago city was blocked by armed guards hired by landlords. The failed first attempt taught them many lessons.
On December 22, 2008, the farmers were came in much bigger number and were more determined . With only bare hands and feet, they were able to prepare the lands for rice farming. Everyone participated, including the women and youth. They triumphed.
Initial results of bungkalan:
■ 24 bungkalan sites in Negros that used to be idle hacienda lands,
■ 1,381-hectares cultivated
■ 933 farming households or more than 2,000 farmers benefiited.
Bungkalan is the concretization of the peasants' struggle for land and jujstice, long denied to them by landlords and the land-lord controlled state.
|Photos courtesy of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas|
Land cultivation campaign spreads like fire in Negros Island
By Roy Morilla, special to www.allvoices.com
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines- The peasant movement in the country has been shaking up government institution for decades to implement genuine land reform. Genuine land reform for peasants concretely means the free distribution of lands they have cultivated for generations but remained under the feudal control of big landlords, agro-businesses and foreign corporations.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) is continuing its waging of an all-out legal and democratic campaign at the national center for people from different sectors to learn that Philippine’s society has been long overdue feudal, the peasant majority under oppression and exploitation and agriculture remained backward.
Since the 1980s, KMP has faced 2 publicly-witnessed massacres perpetrated by the state, particularly the Mendiola Massacre on January 22, 1987 and Hacienda Luisita Massacre on November 16, 2004. Human rights abuses, recently through extra-judicial killings have also targeted their leaders and members and countless have been displaced due to landgrabbing and land use conversion. KMP’s struggle for Genuine Land Reform is still vital and opportune.
“Land Reform” has been mystified by pseudo-peasant groups, landlords, lawmakers and other reactionary forces, depicting it as mere services to the Filipino peasants, while deviating from the main issue of control and domination over vast lands. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), in its 22 years of implementation has served big landlords, agro-business and foreign corporations and kept peasants into deep poverty and misery.
It is now stretched by CARP Extension with ‘Reforms’ or CARPer and remains to threaten farmers out of their lands. Amidst the massive lies and deception launched by the landlord-dominated state, KMP affirmed that Genuine Land Reform is an attainable cause and only possible through the massive participation of landless peasants, through a strong and united peasant movement.
The very concrete actions of the peasants are the only means to achieve Genuine Land Reform in clear contradiction of state-sponsored sham land reform program such as CARPer and other anti-peasant laws, program and policies. The argument that Genuine Land Reform is only a “fantasy” and impossible is shattered by the recent victories and gains of the peasant movement, particularly from Negros. KMP Negros, who affirmed the correct line that peasants would only participate in a struggle if their very interest is at stake, which is land.
Amidst the pluralist environment fuelled by reactionary institutions, Negros farmers have broken through the centuries-old domination and control of sugar barons, hacienderos and landlords and stood their ground that it is now time for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Negros lands have been chained to the world market dictated sugar industry for centuries, traceable since the Spanish colonial period. Through the long period, farmers have been brought up that there is no alternative to a feudal system, alongwith the constant repression of those who struggle and oppose.
On December of 2008, Negros farmers smashed that outdated belief.
“Bungkalan” or cultivation is the centerpiece campaign of KMP Negros. It is the widely coordinated, organized and simultaneous cultivation of idle lands that used to be sugarlands and only serving the interest of Negros sugar barons and US imperialism. In the midst of constant threat and danger, farmers have pushed through their cultivation and came out successful in transforming sugarlands into productive agricultural lands, for the very first time.
Through the normal course of development, Negros farmers’ first attempt on December 2, 2008 to cultivate lands in Bago city has been marked as a setback as they were blocked by armed guards employed by landlords. Consequently, farmers assessed their weakness and limitations, learned that they lacked coordination and strength. Though unsuccessful, the December 2 attempt was a learning experience as it served as basis for their next course of actions. On December 22, 2008, armed with the lessons learned from the prior attempt, farmers who are more agitated, bigger in numbers and ample readiness have again attempted to cultivate the lands.
The farmers were triumphant. With only bare hands and feet, they have prepared the lands for rice farming. Everyone participated, including the women and youth. The armed guards were not prepared to prevent them from cultivation as they were overwhelmed by the peasant action. As the farmers have anticipated, they have set-up their camp-out, lived together organized and coordinated, added satellite tents that served as guard posts against incoming threats and maintained their committee and command structures. On the first phase of their bungkalan, they were able to cultivate more than 40-hectares of the 81-hectares targeted lands.
The lands were planted with rice and vegetables that more than 300 farmers have attended through an organized manner. Though initially successful, the farmers continued to educate their ranks as imminent deceptive efforts of the landlords, in collusion with the Dept. of Agrarian Reform officials were in the offing. On their 53rd day of bungkalan, they remained resilient and organized, thus, earning support from various sectors such as from the workers, youth, women, professionals and supporters. They were able to hold many solidarity programs and missions, some attended by foreign medical personnels. As the campaign shape to be fruitful and legitimate, the landlord-DAR camp continues to be on the defensive. Within the first phase of their campaign, about 24 sites across Negros turned out a success. These sites involved hacienda lands that were idle as the demand for local sugar has long continued to dwindle down. The campaign totaled to cultivate 1,381-hectares, benefiting 933 farming households or more than 2,000 farmers.
From semi-feudal to Genuine Land Reform
As KMP Negros, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) and other peasant groups were successful in realizing Genuine Land Reform, they have coincided their campaign with their full support of the passage of then-House Bill 3059 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB). Thus, during the maintenance stage of the rice crops, then-Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo visited their farms and participated in weeding out the crops.
On October of 2009, then-Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod was able to participate on the first harvesting of the rice crops. The first harvest was a very significant period for the Negros farmers as for the very first time, Negros lands served the interest of the people and not the interest of landlords and US imperialism.
This very moment was the real-life picture KMP aims to be realized across the country. The first harvest was a real deal success as the farms yielded to about 80, 90 to 100 cavans per hectare. Their cultivation was also of less cost as labor has been through cooperative effort or “bayanihan.” In addition, the variety they have cultivated was not of those new high-yielding or hybrid, thus, required minimal input. For the very first time, Negros farmers have directly enjoyed the very fruits of their labor, a giant leap of difference from working on sugarlands.
As the farmers’ anticipated, landlords would not easily give up their control of the lands. At present, landlords and landowners launched to criminalize agrarian cases or the charging of petty crimes against the farmers. Farmers who burned left-over crops has been charged with arson, those who harvested with theft, those who cultivated lands with trespassing and other crimes. Under the leadership of KMP Negros, farmers would not step back from their victories.
They arrived in Manila to further drum up their issue and seek support for their cause. Leaders of KMP Negros and NFSW have joined the recent Lakbayan ng Magbubukid para sa Lupa at Hustisya (Peasant March for Land and Justice), the annual protest against CARPer coinciding the anniversary of Marcos’ bogus land reform program PD 27. They are also in camp-out in front of the DAR Central Office in Quezon City to pressure the department and expose local officials who colluded with the landlords.
They were also able to dialogue with the office of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to request the junking of the charges against them. The peasant leaders were also able to speak to forums organized by the church sector, hold a solidarity visit in Hacienda Luisita, discussion groups with different sectors and protest during the World Food Day and at Mendiola. They are in close coordination with their legal counsels that handle their agrarian case.
The Negros farmers are also challenging the presidency of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino. As they are aware of Aquino’s landlord stance on the issue of Hacienda Luisita, they are challenging him to work for the distribution of 11 hacienda lands controlled by his uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. They claimed that Danding Cojuangco is the model icon of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and US imperialism. KMP Negros and NFSW are campaigning to junk CARPer and SDO, Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership program and to pass the House Bill 374 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
The Negros farmers are firm and determined to preserve their gains and victories. But as any chapter of the peasant movement, they need the support of many sectors who also aim for Genuine Land Reform and fundamental change in the country. They vow to maintain their organization as united and strong at the highest degree in the name of Genuine Land Reform. #
Negros farmers urge Noynoy to distribute Danding lands in Negros
|Complete video of Bungkalan|
Experience of the Peasant Struggle in Negros and Hacienda Luisita
and How they have Transformed Lands into A Major Source of Food and
KMP-Negros, United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU),
Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA),
ANAKPAWIS Party List, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)
De Meester Hall,St Theresa’s College, D. Tuazon, Quezon City
Oct. 27, 2010
The Filipino Peasants Struggle for Land is a noble cause to Uplift them from Poverty and Hunger, Produce Food for Man and Free them from the Bondage of Feudal Control of the Few Rich and Powerful Landlords.
A forum about the Experience of the Peasant Struggle in Negros and Hacienda Luisita and How they have Transformed Lands into A Major Source of Food and Livelihood
|Ka Lito Bais, ULWU, Chairperson|
|Ka Greg Ratin, KMP-Negros, Spokeperson|
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas - Southern
Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR)
Situation of Farmers in Davao, Mindanao
detailed in situationer
|Atty. Jobert Pahilga Executive Director-SENTRA|
|Ka Toto of Teatro Obrero|
Negros farmers protest against Criminalization of Agrarian Cases, Extra-judicial Killings and Militarization
in front of DOJ, October 26, 2010 (Original Message) oct 27 doj abante3
Solidarity Night with Negros farmers
Photos by UMA Pilipinas
Big landowners in Negros Occidental have found another way to retain and re-concentrate the land in their hands: file criminal cases against peasants and farm workers.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Early morning of November 15, 2009, 22 peasant families went to Lot No. 1156 of Hacienda Filomena in Escalante City, Negros Occidental to demand what was due to them. They cultivated the land because the landlord has not paid the monetary claims they have won in the case they filed before the National Labor Relations Commission. In return, however, the landlord filed several criminal cases against them.
Rebecca Bucabal, 56, one of the peasants who cultivated the five-hectare-Lot No. 1156, was aware of the possible criminal charges that might be filed against them. “But we do not have much choice,” she told Bulatlat in a mix of Tagalog and Visayan language, “We are hungry.”
Bucabal’s parents were already working in the 60-hectare Hacienda Filomena way before she was born. Bucabal later married Rufino, now 59 years old, who also works in Hacienda Filomena. Since the time of Bucabal’s parents until the present, farm workers in the hacienda endured the low salary being given to them, which was no more than P80 ($1.86) a day, depending on the type and amount of work being assigned to them.
In 1996, many farm workers were dismissed without prior notice by the Ocdenaria family, the landowners. Only 34 of them were brave enough to file a case against Ocdernarias before the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal and non-payment of their rightful salaries.
Two years later, the NLRC issued a decision favoring the farm workers. The Ocdenaria family was ordered to pay P1.5 million ($34,883) in back wages to the farm workers. But after more than a decade of waiting, “we have not received a single centavo,” Bucabal said. Worse, the 34 farm workers were still not given work at the hacienda.
Bucabal said this pushed them to occupy Lot No. 1156, “to recoup their (Ocdenarias) debt to us.” Only 22 of the 34 farm workers, who filed the NLRC case, and their families have returned to acquire and cultivate the land, calling their claim-making act as Balik Uma.
The struggle of the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita, a 6,453 real property co-owned by President Benigno S. Aquino, served as one of the inspirations of their Balik Uma. “Some of our farm workers would go there (in HLI) to work as seasonal workers,” Bucabal said, “So our Balik Uma is somehow patterned after their Bungkalan, only at a smaller scale.”
Filing of Criminal Cases
Bucabal and all her fellow farm workers are now facing criminal charges filed against them by the Ocdenarias.
She is facing six cases namely, Malicious Mischief, Usurpation of Real Right on Real Property, Grave Coercion, Other Forms of Trespass, Arson and Theft, though Bucabal admitted that the last two were the least that she expected.
A fire which burned the sugar cane planted at a parcel of land adjacent to Lot No. 1156 on March 17, 2010 around 2:00 p.m was made the basis of the arson case filed against Bucabal. On that day, she was sleeping in their camp-out, just outside Lot No. 1156 When she woke up. she related, “We called for firefighters and they managed to extinguish the fire,” she said.
However, as soon as the firefighters extinguished the fire, another end of the sugarcane plantation was, again, set on fire. “Even the firefighters were confused,” she said. She received a subpoena for the arson case in May.
The theft case, on the other hand, was filed after the farm workers attempted to sell the sugarcane they harvested on October 3, 2010. At around 4:00 p.m. that day, 10 farmworkers and their driver left Lot No. 1156 to sell the sugarcane, which Bucabal estimated at around 10 tons. Upon arriving in Escalante City, however, Ranil Pritos, a traffic enforcer, confiscated the sugarcane.
“Our driver was told that we were stealing g sugarcane from the hacienda,” Bucabal said. All 10 farmworkers and the driver were charged with theft.
“I am ready no matter what happens,” she firmly told Bulatlat, “I am not afraid.”
Bucabal, however, is not alone. In a legal clinic organized by the Sentro Para sa Tunay nga Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), a peasant rights’ legal assistance group, on September 12 in Escalante, Negros Occidental, they found out that the filing of criminal cases against peasants involved in agrarian disputes are common in the province. The peasants and farm workers from 20 haciendas in Negros revealed that the most common cases being filed against them are Forcible Entry, Grave Coercion, Malicious mischief, Usurpation of Real Rights on Real Property.
In Negros, there are 50 peasants and farm workers who have been charged with criminal cases because they have been at the forefront of the struggle for genuine agrarian reform. Jobert Pahilga, executive director of Sentra, said that this is “very alarming.”
Pahilga told Bulatlat that the increasing number of criminal charges being filed against peasants and farm workers are “reflections of the poor agrarian reform system (in the country).” He said the filing of criminal cases are soon followed closely by the filing of ejectment cases against the peasants and farm workers. This, said Pahilga, results in the re-concentration of land to a few big landowners.
The Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which was refiled in the present congress, could have strengthened agrarian reform in the country and could have corrected the loopholes of the current Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) However, it is still pending and has not progressed even an inch.
Calls for Investigation
On October 26, peasants group from Negros wrote a letter to Justice secretary Leila de Lima, appealing for an urgent investigation of the “criminalization and resurgence of the filing of trumped-up charges by big land lords and local government, military and police authorities against farmer leaders and members involved in agrarian disputes.
“Farmers and farm workers’ acts of cultivating the land has become ‘usurpation of private property,’ cleaning the field has become ‘arson,’ harvesting the fruits of their labor has become ‘qualified theft,’ holding meetings has become ‘illegal assembly,’ and asserting one’s rights as (Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries) has become ‘grave threats’ or ‘coercion,” their letter read.
The peasant groups said that aside from the fact that farmers and farm workers who do not have the resources to defend themselves are charged in court, “it also disrupts their otherwise normal lives as many of those who are facing criminal charges have been jailed or threatened with arrest. Thus, many are forced to hide and stop working or to post bail, adding to their financial burdens.”
Bucabal said, “I challenge Pres. Benigno Aquino III to look into the situation of farmers like us. We are fighting for the future of our children and grandchildren.” (Bulatlat.com)