Hungry farmers caught between army and rebel clashes

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Peasants
Tags: , , , , , , ,

ILOILO City, Philippines – Despite the harvest season, indigenous people, Tumandok, in Tapaz, Capiz are still experiencing hunger because subsistence farming only provides small produce and that recent military encounters  hinder them from their daily economic activities.

The Tumandok practices slash-and-burn or kaingin farming. They plant bisaya or traditional rice such as malido and milagrosa on inclined parts of the mountain only once a year.

Hunger experienced by the Tumandok people is felt everyday for the rest of the year. Alternative cash and root crops are insufficient for their daily needs. The typhoon Quinta that hit their area in December 2012 resulted to 70-90 percent destruction of their crops due to landslides and mudslides. Recovery is slow and painful without government support.

With military operations in the area, the Tumandok people’s economic activities have decreased and security measures are heightened causing fear and discomfort for the communities and have stopped them from working in their kaingin.

Meanwhile, a strafing incident occurred last October 7, 2013 in Barangay Nayawan, Tapaz, Capiz,  involving elements of the 61st Infantry Battalion killing farmer Pastor Mirasol Jr. and wounded Rolando Diaz. Peasant group PAMANGGAS condemns the actions of the government troops.

TUMANDOK RESISTANCE

“The strafing incident only shows that the Army would do anything in order to suppress the depressed situation of the tumandoks who have long been opposing the settlement of Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz, a 33,310 hectare ancestral land to the Tumandok people,” said PAMANGGAS secretary general Cris Chavez.

Land-grabbing in the Philippines is systemic in nature that even the government has allowed, permitted and even performed the process of land-grabbing to pave way investments in the form of development aggressions. Instead of helping the indigenous farmers from their misery and poverty, the Philippine government has been instrumental to further the Tumandok people’s depressed situation to the point of killing them. The army reservation limited the farming grounds, and hunting areas of the Tumandok.

Camp General Macario B. Peralta Jr. of the 61st IB PA is home to more than seventeen thousand tumandoks. The camp was reserved under presidential proclamation number 67 of then President Diosdado Macapagal in 1962 covering about 32 barangays of the municipalities of Jamindan and Tapaz in Capiz.

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HUNGER AND LAND REFORM

PAMANGGAS is ready to stage a mobilization this Wednesday, October 16 to commemorate the World Food(less) Day. PAMANGGAS addressed the hunger and poverty of farmers as a result of the governments negligence and lack of political will to address the chronic problems of farmers to lack of land and food security.

“The CARP and CARPER are the longest, grandest, and poorest-performing agrarian reform program in the country. Since 1972, land monopoly still prevails as exemplified by the Benigno Simeon Aquino III clan’s, the Cojuangco-Aquino, authority of not distributing over the Hacienda Luisita to its legitimate farmer-beneficiaries,” Chavez added.

Compared to its Asian neighbors in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China, each accomplished land reform in the span of five to ten years with minimal landlord compensation. But for the latest CARPER, roughly 30% has been distributed according to think-tank IBON foundation, a year before the program expires in 2014.

Report of the Department of Agrarian Reform said that landlords are still reluctant and strongly resist to the implementation of the program. But budget has already gone up to Php259.5 billion since 1972 up to 2012 to compensate landowners and land acquisition and distribution expenses.

“This confirms that the program has been written to contain loopholes so that landlords find their legality to deny the agrarian reform implementation,” said Chavez.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Despite their hunger situation, indigenous peoples are still killed and their human rights are violated by state forces themselves who are supposed to protect and serve the unprotected and defenseless.

Mirasol, single, is a farmer-vendor of banana while Diaz is a farmer and a council-member of the TUMANDUK organization. Both were on their way of transporting their banana harvest when an encounter between the Philippine Army and the New People’s Army occurred around 6:45 AM of October 7.

They then seek refuge in the house of Kagawad Abelardo Diaz, which was about one kilometer from the site of the encounter. They were having coffee when the strafing happened around 9:30 a.m., almost three hours after the encounter between government troops and the NPA.

Diaz was trying to relax his strained hips from the work. Mirasol was sitting in front of Diaz. When the strafing began, a bullet struck the right shoulder of Diaz and passed through and hit the left arm of Mirasol. Another bullet instantly killed Mirasol through his head.

The TUMANDUK earlier condemned the attack and belies the Army statement that the two victims were NPA rebels.

“It is a sign of desperation the Army is acting and instead of protecting and serving those unprotected are the ones killing them. We call for justice for our brothers Mirasol and Diaz and the immediate prosecution of military officials who are involved in the event,” said Aileen Catamin, a TUMANDUK council-member. “Human rights violations are rampant with the presence of government troops in the area,” Catamin continued.

Earlier in March 2012, a 6-year old Tumandok girl was killed when Peace and Development Team members of the 61st IB PA Charlie Command propelled an M203 grenade launcher into the house of the family Aguirre in Bgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz.

Rodelyn was playing with her sister Roda 4, when the army launched the rocket that immediately killed Rodelyn and wounded Roda. The army reported  that the girls were playing with an improvised explosive device. But the fact-finding mission of human-rights group KARAPATAN confirmed that the shrapnel that killed Rodelyn and wounded Roda were from an M203.###

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