05 April 2016 — More than a thousand farmers and Lumad staged today a die-in protest in Malaybalay City, demanding for the government’s action on several issues various communities face in the province.
Titled ‘Panagtagbo sa mga Katawhan sa Bukidnon Batok sa Plantasyon, Hulaw ug Militarisasyon (Bukidnon Peoples’ Converge against Plantations, Hunger and Militarization),’ its participants come from the different communities in the province experiencing threats of land grabbing and militarization.
“Our fight for our land continues, our situation exacerbated by the extreme drought in the region,” said Jun Benemerito, chairperson of Kasama Bukidnon (Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon), an organization of farmers in the province.
Nothing to eat
“The farmers are the backbone of the society because we produce the food we eat. But now, we are just bones. The farmers have nothing to eat,” said Crispin Sinugkit of the agri-workers’ group Ogyon based in Impasug-ong. “The government says it could not release the calamity funds because of the election ban. Does it follow that we have to stop eating because of the elections?”
“The government has budget for bullets and its wars against its peoples,” said Benemerito. “But it doesn’t have enough funds to provide farmers with proper irrigation facilities to weather this kind of extreme condition. The story is familiar. The government has never provided any genuine support for us poor farmers. Instead of providing the structures we need to survive, the government encourages farmers to lease our lands to corporations.”
The protest action also serves as a send off to the indigenous families from Sitio Balaudo, Kinuaw, Mapulo, Malaybalay City and Cabanglasan who have been holding camp in front of the provincial capitol grounds since January this year.
“They have decided to go home despite the continued presence of the criminals who killed their relatives and neighbors,” said Didin Landasan, chairperson of Pigyayungaan, the lumad organization in Malaybalay. “The weather is taxing on their health. Although we try to look for ways the evacuees could eat three times a day, the food we are able to find here is not nutritious unlike the food they gather in their communities. Most if not all had already been hospitalized in the almost three months they had camped here.”
The Lumad leaders held a ritual in the morning, offering a pig and two chickens, to seek guidance and help from the spirits for a safe journey home.
“The government officials mouth its care for their Lumad constituents but holds a gun in their hands,” said Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. “The way they treat our communities is horrible, only aiding us if they see that they could gain from it. The Lumad families here will go home disappointing of this government which they could never call theirs. It kills them – if not with bullets then with their neglect and lack of support.”
More coordinated actions ahead
Benemerito said that the die-in protest today also signifies the start of the series of protest actions of farmers and indigenous communities of Bukidnon to press the local government in assisting the drought-affected communities
“Thousands of Bukidnon farmers will troop to the streets on the coming days to push for government’s action. Poor farmers and Lumad communities cannot withstand now the hunger caused by El Nino,” Benemerito concluded.
Jun Benemerito, KASAMA Bukidnon, Mobile: 0905-909-3200