Malolos, Bulacan— Around 150 farmers, women, senior citizens, and children who were part of a "Lakbayan" (march) from Bataan to Malacanang to request President Rodrigo Duterte to help get the lands awarded to them under the government's agrarian reform program were prevented from entering Bulacan like by the Malolos police at 4pm on May 30. The farmers were set to stop and rest at the Social Action Center in Barasoain Church in Malolos before pushing for Manila in the morning of May 31.
According to Rolando Martinez of the Samahang Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU), a member organization of Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), the group was stopped by Malolos policemen almost a kilometer away from Barasoain Church. When they inquired why they were being blocked, they were initially told that the Archdiocese of Malolos had requested the police’s assistance in stopping the farmers. “Sabi po nila, hindi na daw kami patutuluyi dahil may dumating na VIP sa Barasoain at hindi na kami mapapapasok.” (According to them, they will not let us pass because important people arrived at the Barasoain Church)
But when the SARA Secretariat, Focus on the Global South, which has been assisting in the Lakbayan called up the Social Action Center (SAC) of Malolos, the latter denied making such a request and sent a representative instead to meet the farmers where they were blocked from proceeding to Barasoain Church. Focus has been working closely with the SAC of Malolos in setting up a place where farmers could spend the night and recover for the last leg of the march the next day. Food and water have also been prepared by the SAC to welcome the farmers.
The police told the farmers they were assembling illegally. The decision to intercept them in Bulacan allegedly came from the Malolos police chief and the Provincial Philippine National Police. However, the marchers had earlier sent a letter requesting the PNP to assist them for their 100-km march. They had been showing this letter, which had a received stamp from Central Luzon PNP, in every stopover. The police in Bulacan insisted to escort the farmers to Valenzuela to ensure that they will not camp out anywhere in the province.
Dead on their feet after walking for more than 30 kilometers from San Fernando, Pampanga, to Bulacan under the heat, the farmers requested for some consideration. But no amount of negotiation could convince the police to let the farmers stay in Bulacan last night. Near midnight and after more than five hours of negotiations with the police, Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado intervened and instructed that the farmers be granted passage to the Bulacan Sports Complex where they could spend the night.
Marcelina Sola, 58, however was already rushed to the hospital due exhaustion before she could even reach the sports complex. Despite the ordeal, the farmers said that they remain resolute and committed to continue their journey to achieve agrarian reform, peace, and justice for their community and the rest of the country.#
For more information, please contact:
Rolando Martinez, +63906-352-2905
Raphael Baladad, +63929-335-6582
Photo credit: Mhike Cigaral of CLTV36