Int’l rural peoples movement lauds Duterte conviction

The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) lauds the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) for convicting the Duterte administration and the Trump government as guilty of charges in crimes against the Filipino people and humanity. The international rural peoples movement also urges the International Criminal Court and other intergovernmental bodies to thoroughly consider the verdict of the IPT, especially the peasant killings and other crimes of the Duterte administration towards the farmers, small food producers and land reform advocates.

Last Sept.19 the IPT[i], convened by human rights defenders, peace and justice advocates, lawyers,jurists academics, church people, and political activists, issued a ruling holding the Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, United States President Donald Trump, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and transnational corporations and foreign banks doing business in the Philippines accountable of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and violations of law and legal instruments.

While not legally binding, the said ruling will be transmitted to the international Criminal Court, the European Parliament, and the United Nations Human Rights Council to be added to the existing cases against the Philippine President.

“The verdict in itself is a victory for the farmers, small food producers, and land reform advocates, not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. This is a message that even in the Philippines, the most dangerous country for land reform advocates in Asia, there can be justice,” said Roy Anunciacion PCFS global secretariat head.

Included in the verdict that proves “gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights; gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights; and gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and development and violations of international humanitarian law,” are cases of:

 (1) massacre of indigenous peoples opposed to mining and land grabbing by big transnational companies;

(2) filing of trumped up charges and arbitrary arrests and detentions of political activists;

(3) torture of peasants;

(4) displacement, forced evacuation, arbitrary arrests and detention and other human rights violations arising from the imposition of martial rule in Mindanao;

(5) landlessness and harassment of poor peasants;

(6) attacks on indigenous peoples and national minorities amounting to crimes against humanity and;

(7) attacks on schools of indigenous peoples and harassment; among others.

“Most of the cases and violations include victims from the rural peoples and indigenous peoples. In fact, out of the 180 politically motivated extrajudicial killings (EJK) presented, 141 of these are farmers and indigenous people.

Most alarming of these are the cases filed by farmers and farm workers working in sugarcane plantations in Negros and banana plantations of Japanese SUMIFRU in Mindanao, where state-sponsored killings are tied to economic ruin and land grabbing,” Anunciacion added.

Justice for Negros and SUMIFRU Farm Workers

Part of the voluminous documents and depositions supporting the IPT verdict are the sworn statements and supplementary evidences brought to court by the farm workers of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros and the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyafa Farm [United Farm Workers of Suyafa Farm] from Mindanao.

The affidavit of John Milton Lozande, a farm worker leader of NSFW, laments that “since January 2017,the land-related killings and massacres of farmers, farm workers and land rights activists in Negros Island has already reach to 34 as of September 2018and 27 of them are farmers, sugarcane workers and land rights activists who struggled to fight for the lands they tilled against politically influential landlord families”.

The report also noted that Duterte’s lack of land reform program is concomitant to perpetuating the hacienda system that forces farmworkers to work for a measly $0.93 to $1.24 per day income in the ‘sakada system’ or internal migrant sugar worker system’ “albeit mild comparison, to slave labor… in vast sugar plantations in the US and the Caribbean during the16th until the 19th centuries.”

“Time and time again, the Philippine government failed the farm workers in the country.The failure of land reform programs through the years and the rampant peasant killings has emboldened the sugar and banana barons of the country to exploit the farm workers in most dire, and unequal conditions. The current criminalization of advocating for land reform and against land grabbing remains the biggest obstacle to justice the Filipino farmers are facing,” Anunciacion added.

Meanwhile, the statements filed by the farm workers of the Japanese giant Sumitomo Fruit Corporation (SUMIFRU) state that Martial law is aggravating the already curtailed rights of the farmers and land reform advocates as the military and the plantations’ armed guards were given a free pass to escalate the harassment and violence towards the farm workers’ union leaders and members.

According to the human rights group Karapatan[ii],that in a year of martial rule in Mindanao, there are at least 49 cases of EJKs, 22 cases of torture, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings, most of which are farmers, farm workers and indigenous peoples.

In the SUMIFRU banana plantations alone, a recent fact-finding mission led by the KMU[iii] [May One Movement] reported that they documented at least 286 “human rights violations involving cases of coercion, displacement from their homes,harassment, intimidation, illegal entry into their houses and planting of fake evidence”. Most recent cases[iv]include the frustrated EJK of Victor Ageas, labor union leader of NAMAFUSA last Sept. 4 and Melodina Gumanoy, secretary of the same union last Aug. 30.

“While 6 in 10 banana farmers are struggling to feed their families, unions in plantations are being busted, farmers are forced to lease their lands to SUMIFRU, only to be paid measly wages as farm workers.” Anunciacion added.

The recent OxFam report cited[v]also concluded that farmers were “locked in a vicious cycle of debt, while banana trading companies are able to extract significant value from the production process” and are tied to “onerous agreements” with “opaque conditions,” exposing them to “brutal working conditions.”

“Lastly, we call on all human rights activists in the world to support the struggle of the Filipino farmersand farm workers for food, land and justice,” Anunciacion ended.

The farm workers of NAMAFUSA are planning a strike as SUMIFRU failed to comply to the demands of the workers within the framework of collective negotiations, including the regularization of almost a thousand banana plantation workers. ###

[i]The IPT 2018 is a global court convened by the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

[ii] last accessed Sept. 20, 2018

[iii] Last accessed Sept. 20, 2018

[iv] last accessed Sept. 20, 2018

[v] Ripe for Change. OxFam International, July 2018.

(Photo from #IPT2018 complainants and witnesses submit a copy of the verdict to the International Criminal Court in Den Haag, Netherlands, and picket on the ICC premises to press for justice for Duterte regime’s victims of human rights violations.)

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