Joseph Elijah Sydney Gil and Jose Medriano III*
Banners in hand, feeling hungry but resolute, the farmers marched from Bataan to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City. Their voices sounding tired but marked with incredible conviction.
Their demands:: agrarian reform and justice. They ask that the government intervene to stop the human rights violations, criminalization of their struggle, and to allow them to enter and till their farms.
Despite the exhausting 100-km march from Hermosa, Bataan to the DAR in Quezon City, the farmers, 400 0f them, stood their ground. Farmers of the Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU) demanded accountability from Secretary Rafael Mariano.
Nine years ago, 214 hectares of land tilled by the farmers of Sumalo were fenced by the Riverforest Development Corporation, owned by the Litton family from Forbes Park. The government has since failed to address reports of human rights violations and continuous harassment.
The program started at the gates of DAR where leaders spoke before the gathered crowds. It was noon and the sun was at its peak. Clouds provided some relief, until the farmers were finally granted entry. But the Secretary is out of the country.
Around 50 farmers from Sumalo remain camped at DAR. They await a dialogue with the Secretary and with the Office of the President.
Watch the struggle of Sumalo farmers, here: Fenced in, Fenced Out: The Struggle for Food, Land and Survival
More photos can be viewed here: Lakbayan of Farmers
* Joseph and Jose are interns with Focus on the Global South-Philippines Programme. Both are Political Science majors at the Ateneo de Manila University.