Killings of PH farmers must stop

September 12, 2016

We of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty condemn the recent spate of killings of activist farmers belonging to organizations affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Peasant Movement of the Philippines.

We condemn the massacre of four farmers – Gaudencio Bagalay, Violeta Mercado, Baby Mercado and Eligio Barbado – when they were participating in a land cultivating activity inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija on September 3.

We also condemn the killing of Ariel Diaz in his farm in Villa Pereda, San Albano, Isabela on September 7 by two motorcycle-riding gunmen.

Bagalay, Mercado, Mercado and Barbado are members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa (Alliance of United Peasants) while Diaz is chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (Solidarity of Farmers in Isabela) and of the Peasant Alliance Against Foreign Landgrabbing in Northern Isabela.

While the killing of Diaz is still being investigated, the killing of the four farmers in Nueva Ecija is being connected to the dispute over the 3,100-hectare land inside the FMMR, the largest military reservation in the Philippines and one of the key training areas of the Philippine Army.

We support KMP’s call to the Philippine government to investigate local government officials led by Palayan City Mayor Arianne Cuevas, whose goons had allegedly been harassing the farmers prior to the massacre.

Fort Magsaysay has been chosen, under the previous government of Benigno Aquino III, as one of the base locations under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the US, which is part of the US’ Pivot to Asia thrust.

We have every reason to believe that the selection of the area to be a US military base has aggravated the land dispute there, to the detriment of the farmers.

These killings go against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s pro-farmer promises and measures, including the appointment of former KMP chairperson Rafael V. Mariano as secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform. Farmers and other activists, however, will continue to die as long as soldiers and the police can kill with impunity.

These killings should be investigated thoroughly and those responsible jailed. More importantly, land disputes should be immediately resolved in favor of the farmers. The long-standing land issue in the Philippines is definitely more important than the drug problem there and lies at the bottom of the latter. We challenge Pres. Duterte to stop the killing of farmers and stand for genuine land reform.

We support farmers’ efforts to expand and strengthen their organizations in order to advance their struggle for genuine land reform in the Philippines and in the whole world.

*Images from KARAPATAN and KMP