Quezon City, Philippines — As a non-violent way of protesting the more than 10 years of injustice they have gone through in trying to reclaim their ancestral land, 50 “lumad” farmers belonging to the Mapalad Multi-purpose Cooperative (MPC) will march on foot from their hometown of Sumilao, Bukidnon in the south to the capital city of Manila in the north from October 10 to December 10. (“Lumad” is the term given to the indigenous peoples in the southern island of Mindanao.)
In a letter e-mailed to agrarian reform and rural development advocates in the country and abroad, PAKISAMA, a national confederation of farmers’ associations in the Philippines (of which MPC, through its provincial federation PALAMBU, is a member) asked for support for the farmers’ 60-day march that will hopefully “re-ignite awareness on the situation of agrarian reform in the country and create a groundswell of support for the acceleration of distribution of lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).” (PAKISAMA is a member of AFA.)
Ten years ago this month, 17 lumad-farmers from Sumilao, Bukidon staged a 28-day hunger strike in front of the office of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City to pressure the government to redistribute 144 hectares of their ancestral land covered by the government’s agrarian reform program.
Then President Fidel Ramos brokered a so-called “win-win” formula of sharing the land after the farmers protested Executive Secretary Ruben Torres’ Executive Order converting the said agricultural land to commercial land to evade the agrarian reform law. The “win-win” formula was 100 hectares for the small farmers and 44 hectares for the landowner.
However, the Supreme Court later on upheld the conversion order in favour of the landowner, the Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Management and Development Corporation. It rendered the “win-win” formula null and void.
The corporation eventually sold the land to San Miguel Food Corporation, but for the past 9 years, left the whole land idle. When news got around last year that the farmers want to claim the land back, the corporation started putting up a piggery farm.
Under the law, an agricultural land conversion plan which was not implemented within five years after approval may be subjected again to the agrarian reform program.
The farmers have filed a petition for the cancellation of the conversion order before the Office of the DAR Secretary since 2002. It has not been acted upon ever since.
“In spite of these setbacks, the farmers remain steadfast and still believe that one day they will be able to reclaim their ancestral land”, read PAKISAMA’s letter.
They are also asking President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to use her powers to give them back their ancestral land.
PAKISAMA’s letter further stated that the farmers’ story is “a sad reflection of the state of agrarian reform in our country” and demonstrates how little its commitment is to agrarian reform justice.
The march is being being supported by the People’s Campaign for Agrarian Reform Network (AR Now!), a coalition of agrarian reform advocates in the Philippines.
A press conference will be held on Tuesday, October 9, 10:30 am at Max Restaurant, Quezon City Circle, simultaneous with the press conference and mass in Sumilao, Bukidnon.
‘Nang Linda Ligmon and ‘Nong Peter Tuminhay, two of the Higaonon Sumilao leaders will be the main speakers.
“I pray we can join hands again in finally giving justice to Sumilao farmers and eventually the millions of landless farmers awaiting the completion of CARP, ” said PAKISAMA National Coordinator Soc Banzuela.
Click here to read the full position paper of the Sumilao farmers: http://asianfarmers.org/?p=320
The Sumilao farmers need your support
The students of the AB Development Studies of the Ateneo de Manila University have started a fund-raising drive to help the Sumilao farmers. All throughout the 60-day walk they need food, water, raincoats, slippers, tent, medicines and first aid kits.
Those who are interested to help may deposit their donations to PAKISAMA’s bank account:
Bank Account Name: Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
Account Number: 0280-14200-0
Equitable PCI Bank, Katipunan Branch
Please e-mail the details of your donation (amount, time and date of deposit, etc.) at firstname.lastname@example.org or to email@example.com to check if your donation has been received and to receive updates on the march.
PAKISAMA’s office is located at Rm 207 Partnership Center, 59 Salavador St. Loyola Heights, Quezon City.