Philippines, 14 May 14 2014 — Two dozen organizations from 12 countries in Asia and around the world signed a letter decrying the murder of Filipino farmer leader Menelao (“Ka Melon”) Barcia by unidentified gunmen on May 2, 2014.
More than a dozen high-profile individuals also signed the letter, which states: “we join the entire rural social movement in mourning the tragic and senseless killing of a peasant leader whose life was dedicated to the struggle for agrarian reform and social justice.”
Ka Melon, age 58, was the secretary of the local farmers’ organization known as ANIBAN, or the Alliance of United People of Hacienda Dolores, which is attempting to reclaim 700 hectares of land taken by the real estate developers LLL Holdings/FL Properties (now known as Terrafirma Holdings), and Ayala Land.
The letter calls Ka Melon’s assassination – in which his wife and niece were wounded – “the latest attempt to sow fear and to push farmers to give up the fight for agrarian reform”, and describes “systematic harassment” and human rights violations against the people of Hacienda Dolores and surrounding villages.
Behind this tragedy is a tale of corporate land grabbing and failed land reform that have left farmers to fend for themselves, often becoming the targets of violence. Hacienda Dolores, a traditional farming area, was exempted from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for being supposedly idle and within 18% slope, in spite of the cultivation done by farmers.
The letter cites “unabated killings of farmers fighting for their lands” and asks for an investigation into Ka Melon’s killing by Philippine state agencies led by President Benigno Aquino. It also calls for the completion of land reform efforts as mandated under the Philippine constitution.
Signatories include Filipino groups such as the World March of Women, WomanHealth, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Sentro (the Progressive Labor Center), and EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network; regional groups including Transnational Institute, Focus on the Global South, and La Via Campesina members in Southeast Asia; and several human rights and peace organizations in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, France, Spain, and the UK. Personalities who signed on include Attorney Christian Monsod, a former constitutional commissioner in the Philippines.
View the letter here or in the text below.
Justice for Ka Melon and his family! Stop the attack on peasants and peasant leaders!
We grieve with the family of Menelao (“Ka Melon”) Barcia, as we join the entire rural social movement in mourning the tragic and senseless killing of a peasant leader whose life was dedicated to the struggle for agrarian reform and social justice. We express our indignation towards the shameless perpetrators who committed this heinous crime.
Ka Melon Barcia, 58, was killed on May 2, 2014, at around 10 in the evening. He sustained four gunshot wounds, three on the chest and one on the head. Aboard an owner-type jeepney, Ka Melon with his wife, Maria Barcia, 55, and niece Romella Mallari, came from a neighboring town when two unidentified men riding a motorcycle ambushed them in front of a church at Sta. Cruz, Manibaog. Maria, 55, sustained two gunshot wounds in the leg and arm and is still in the hospital; Romella was wounded in her arm and leg. The two men tried to steal Ka Melon’s bag which contained important documents of his local farmers’ organization, ANIBAN-KATARUNGAN but Romella defended it and shouted for help. When people present in the scene rushed to their aid, the suspects fled.
Ka Melon, who served as the secretary of ANIBAN tirelessly and fearlessly fought to reclaim their 700-hectare lands being grabbed by real estate developers: FL Properties and Management Corporation/LLL Holdings, Inc. (FL/LLL), and more recently, by Ayala Land, Inc. This land is located in the villages of Hacienda Dolores and Sapang Uwak, Porac, Pampanga. It was exempted from agrarian reform in 2006, despite being an agricultural area planted to rice, fruits, and root crops.
The assassination of Ka Melon, regarded by many as a person of commitment and principle, is the latest attempt to sow fear and to push farmers to give up the fight for agrarian reform. For years, farmers of Hacienda Dolores have experienced systematic harassment and violations of their human rights—from verbal threats, physical attacks and intimidation, to criminalization, forcible eviction, destruction of crops and other properties, killing, and enclosure of the land, in which more than 200 farmers were refused entry into the lands they have tilled for years. ANIBAN’s president and the village captain Tony Tolentino has also been charged with different criminal cases.
Ka Melon’s murder is the latest episode in the unabated killings of farmers fighting for their lands. The increase in human rights violations, land enclosures and landlord impunity in the countryside has been happening in the context of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s looming ‘death’ and uncertain future. These atrocious acts might well be the new form of land dispute resolution of corporate land grabbers and government.
We add our voice, in the most emphatic way possible, to the public outcry against this brutal and senseless killing.
We call on the Philippine government, especially the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Justice, and the security sector, to have a sense of urgency and immediately order an investigation of Ka Melon’s killing, file appropriate cases against the perpetrators, and investigate why up until now, there is still no police blotter of the incident. We urge Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to lead the search for the truth and justice and put an end to these atrocious acts and other cases of human rights violations.
We call on the Philippine authorities to stop the land grabbing of agrarian farmlands and ensure the continuity, effective implementation and completion of the agrarian reform program as guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. Restore the farmers’ rights and control over their lands.
In the Philippines and elsewhere, small and peasant farmers produce much of the food and nurture the world’s collective ecological wealth. An attack on peasants is therefore an attack on society. This must be condemned in the strongest possible way by all.
We hold the Philippine government accountable for the rising incidence of extra-judicial killings and landlord and corporate impunity in the countryside. They must be investigated and punished under the law if found responsible for the death of Ka Melon and of other farmers and advocates of agrarian reform
Many have been widowed and orphaned by the continuous and seemingly unending killings of peasants and farmer leaders. We continue to hope that justice will be served.
Justice for Ka Melon and his family! Stop land grabbing! Save agrarian reform!
- Asian Muslim Action Network, Thailand
- Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
- Ecologistas en Accion, Spain
- Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, Philippines
- Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF), France
- Equitable Cambodia, Cambodia
- EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network-Philippines
- Focus on the Global South, India/Philippines/Thailand/Cambodia
- Fresh Eyes – People to People Travel UK
- Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
- International Institute of Peace Studies, Thailand
- Kisan Mitra, Central India
- Korean Peasants League, South Korea
- Korean Women Peasants Association, South Korea
- Local Action Links, Thailand
- MASUM (Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha), Kolkata, West Bengal
- Northern Peasants Federation, Thailand
- PACTI (Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity), India
- Reciprocity, Australia
- SENTRO, Philippines
- Southeast Asia Development Program, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Taiwan Rural Front, Taiwan
- Thai Poor Act, Thailand
- Transnational Institute, Netherlands
- World March of Women-Pilipinas, Philippines
- World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay
- Atty. Christian Monsod, former Constitutional Commissioner/Sulong CARPER Co-Convenor, Philippines
- David Pred, Inclusive Development International, Cambodia
- Graeme Brown, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Indra Lubis, Serikat Petani Indonesia, Indonesia
- Jutta Kill, Berlin, Germany
- Peter Rosset, Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM), Mexico
- Prof Ruth Hall, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
- Randy Arnst, Thailand
- Richard Hackman (Canada), Laos
- Roger Henke, Cairo, Egypt
- Saturnino Borras, Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands
- Scott John, Reciprocity, Australia
- Sofia Monsalve, Colombia/Germany