By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The first ever nationwide peasant caravan, which began yesterday, Jan. 12, aims to highlight the local struggles of peasants for land and justice and to show strong opposition to latest moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-National Peasant Movement) and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party list, the 10-day caravan kicked of in Davao City yesterday. Farmers from Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Surigao, and other provinces of Mindanao joined the protest at the Freedom Park in Davao City.
Later in the day, farmers held a torch parade toward the office of House Speaker Prospero Nograles along Quirino Avenue. Anakpawis Representative and KMP national chairman Rafael Mariano said Nograles has been the “pointman” of the Arroyo government in pushing for Charter change.
“The Filipino peasantry are about to deliver their strongest indictment to the anti-peasant, fascist and corrupt Arroyo regime,” Mariano said.
Mariano said the House’s session, which will resume on Jan. 18, will focus on the Constitutional Convention mode of amending the charter after failing to railroad measures seeking to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly.
Mariano said Nograles has also pushed for the 100-percent foreign ownership of lands in the House Resolution 737 that he authored. The resolution seeks the removal of the Constitution’s restrictions on foreign ownership of land.
The delegates also held a protest-vigil in Davao City before they took off for Butuan Citythis morning to meet with other delegates from Western and Northern Mindanao.
“We aim to bring the voices of the farmers in Mindanao to Malacanang where President Arroyo continues to play blind and deaf to the real situation of the farmers, while we suffer from landlessness, hunger and the militarization of our communities,” said Jimmy Saypan, a farmer leader from Compostela Valley Province, and is one of the representatives from Mindanao for the nationwide caravan.
The Visayas contingent composed of farmers from Panay, Negros, Cebu, and Bohol will start their send-off protests and caravan today. They are expected to be joined by the 50-farmer Mindanao contingent on January 14 in Calbayog City. On January 16 to 19, the Mindanao and Visayas delegates will meet up with delegates from Luzon.
The activity will culminate in Manila on January 22, the 23rd anniversary of the Mendiola massacre.
Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, told Bulatlat in an interview that 7,000 farmers will join the protest in Manila and at least 25,000 will join the protest actions in several points of the caravan. The nationwide caravan, Ramos said, is the first in history.
Twelve regions will join the caravan.These are Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and Bicol regions in Luzon; Panay region, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas; and Central Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Northern Mindanao.
“The Arroyo-Nograles charter change agenda threatens the future of the farmers as well as the agricultural industry as a whole. This regime has caused the people nothing but a plague of economic, political and moral crisis. We cannot allow Mrs. Arroyo and her puppets to stay in power beyond 2010,” said Pedro Arnado, chairman of KMP- Southern Mindanao and Anakpawis regional coordinator.
Arnado added that the farmers’ march from Mindanao to Luzon “manifests their continuing militancy amid the worsening political and economic attacks against their ranks. He said that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program extension with reforms (Carper) and the Oplan Bantay Laya 2, the counterinsurgency program of the Arroyo government, have been both instrumental in the killings and suffering of farmers in Mindanao.”
Ramos said that under the Arroyo administration, 561 farmers were killed, 199 of whom are leaders of KMP. Ramos added that 129 farmers were also victims of enforced disappearances and scores were imprisoned for fabricated criminal charges. (Bulatlat.com)