01 June 2017

After four days of walking and marching from Hermosa, Bataan, armed only with their conviction that they needed to do this to get their lands under the government’s agrarian reform program, 400 farmers and support groups comprising rural women and other peasant organizations in the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) arrived June 1 at the main offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City.

Earlier, the farmers were welcomed by a youth contingent from KATARUNGAN when they entered Monumento. Police escorted them in their march along EDSA. Also joining the farmers in their 100-km Lakbayan were peasant and advocacy groups Kaisahan ng mga Maliliit na Magsasaka, Katipunan ng Bagong Pilipina, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipins, Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid, and Pamabansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan, PARAGOS-Pilipinas, and USAD-ATENEO. Some of the marchers, mostly senior citizens, got sick during the walk and were taken to the hospital to seek medical attention.

After nearly 11 years of struggle to own the lands they had tilled through the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), farmers of Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay  Sumalo (SANAMABASU) from Hermosa Bataan, decided to bring their cause to the doorsteps of DAR central office, and make their clamour heard by President Duterte. The government has failed in protecting their land and human rights under the law, said Rolando Tolentino, leader of the Sumalo farmers.

The farmers marched to get back their 214 hectares of land being claimed by River Forest Development Corporation, owned by the Litton family from Forbes Park. They are asking that government intervene to stop the human rights violations, criminalization of their struggle, and to allow them to enter and till their farms. For more than three years now, their farming activities had been effectively stopped by the fences and gates erected by River Forest, and by its private security personnel. This has affected their ability to earn a living and has stirred not only hunger in the community but also unrest.

Martinez cited the failure of the government to stop the continuing violation of their right to land, life, liberty, and property which started after they made their petition for the coverage of the land under CARP.

“We would like to ask in person DAR Secretary Mariano and President Duterte about the change promised by this administration. Secretary Mariano said before that no farmer will be removed from his/her land under his administration in DAR.  But now we are not only facing threat of eviction but we are also experiencing harassment and arrest,” Martinez said.

“It should not only be the conflict in Mindanao that should be the government’s concern, but also the slow, silent murder of the farmers in Bataan,” the farmer-leader added.

SARA also deplored the lack of serious attention of the government to cases involving ordinary farmers. According to SARA spokesperson, Trinidad Domingo, “government neglect has reinforced the violence and human rights abuses against farmers like the ones in Sumalo, Bataan.”  

The groups also challenged Sec. Mariano to prove that the justice system under the Duterte administration is working fairly and justly by giving serious attention to cases of ordinary people like them.

In the launch of their Lakbayan, the farmers have: (a) called out on the DAR on its sluggish implementation of agrarian reform in the 214-hectare of land in Barangay Sumalo and other land conflict cases that the government has failed to prioritize; (b) expedite the installation of farmers in their land and the extension of support services under the program; (c) demand accountability from Sec Mariano, especially for his pronouncements that “no farmer will be evicted/displaced from the land they are tilling”, and (d) raise public awareness about the plight of small and landless farmers under the Duterte administration.

The Lakbayan coincides with the start of the anniversary month of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program enacted in 1988, which is now on its 29th year of implementation.##

For interviews and more information:

Rolando Martinez, +63906-352-2905

Raphael Baladad, +63929-335-6582

More photos can be viewed here