Int’l mission exposes attempts of PH government to shut down farmer-led rice mill
Demand to pull out all military troops in peasant communities in Bohol
A bogus Countrywide Development Program-Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM), together with local government agencies such the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Interior Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) have been exposed, in the findings of the international mission, as having direct involvement in the harassments of farmer leaders, members, volunteers, and even sympathizers of Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon (Unity of Bol-anon Farmers-HUMABOL) and Central Visayas Farmers Development Center (FARDEC).
This is one of the findings of the International Fact-Finding Mission (IFFM) organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines-KMP), FARDEC, and the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) in cooperation with HUMABOL, in the province of Bohol, Philippines from September 20 to 22, 2015.
At least 40 participants joined the mission with representatives from Friends of the Earth-Japan, Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA)-Indonesia, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)-Sri Lanka and several organizations from the Philippines. The fact-finding mission interviewed farmers, government and military officials, NGO workers in the municipalities of Mabini, Trinidad, Dogohoy, Antequera, Maribojoc, Calafe, Loon, Talibon, Carmen, Ubay, San Miguel, Bien Unido and in Tagbilaran City.
KMP National Chairperson Rafael Mariano said that the IFFM aimed at asserting and defending the initiatives and victories of Boholano farmers in their struggle for land and human rights.
“Ironically, government agencies that are supposed to protect its people are the ones attempting to shut down Sitio Panaghiusa Rice Mill in Barangay San Vicente, in the Municipality of Trinidad. Worse, these government agencies have been instrumental in the illegal encroachment of the military camp in agrarian reform areas which continuously threatens the lives of local farmers and residents of Barangay San Vicente,Trinidad and nearby municipalities,” remarked Mariano, also the APC Chairperson.
The IFFM team were able to visit the farmer-led medium-scale rice milling and marketing facility serving 30 barangays (villages) across Bohol. Hosted by Trinidad–Talibon Integrated Farmers Association (TTFA), a chapter of HUMABOL, the 300-square meter rice mill and warehouse is within the vicinity of the 1,900 hectares of productive agricultural lands of what used to be Bohol Cattle Corporation. Run by FARDEC, the rice mill procures palay (unhusked rice) from farmers at 25 to 50 centavos per kilo higher than the local traders’ rate from the rice farmers of Ubay, Trinidad, Talibon, San Miguel, Mabini and Dagohoy.
“According to the farmers, not only is the rice mill accessible to them but has benefited them through lower milling fees compared to the commercial mills. To the locals, the project helped increase their income and has provided earnings for the farmers’ organizations. It has transformed the lives of Boholano farmers and has initially led communities towards rural development. Why do these government agencies want to close down a project serving its people?’’, questioned Raja Mujeeb, APC Deputy Secretary-General based in Pakistan.
“We were alarmed of the series of harassments and desperate attempts to discredit the Sitio Pinaghiusa Rice Mill which has been, according to the reports, rendering service not only to nearby rice farming communities but across municipalities of Bohol. Involved in the harassments are the once again, government agencies like Provincial Agrarian Reform Office and even the local electric cooperative,” added Mujeeb.
The IFFM concluded that the CDP-PPM purportedly conducted by the Bohol Provincial Government with active role and participation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) especially the 2nd Special Forces Battalion is being carried out as adjunct and component of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino administration at the expense of the economic rights and human rights of farmers and the locals.
“During our interviews, people narrated of attacks by the AFP and encroachment of a military camp threatened the local organizations and the gains they have achieved. Alarmingly, the residents of Barangay San Vicente, wherein the rice mill is located, and farmers from the municipalities of Mabini, Trinidad, Dogohoy, Antequera, Maribujoc, Calapi, Loon, Talibon, Ubay, San Isidro, and Bienunido manifested similar cases of harassments and human rights violations,” narrated Sandy of AGRA, based in Indonesia.
“Most disturbing are the human rights violations which ranged from intimidation to vilification campaigns against leaders and members of HUMABOL chapters. The military told them to stop participating in the activities of HUMABOL, otherwise, they will not be beneficiaries of government projects and programs,” Sandy said.
Almost in all focused-group discussions with the farmers, there were reports of CDP-PPM coordinators bribing the residents. They were told not to support HUMABOL in exchange of livestock, rice, and seedlings. According to the members of HUMABOL, they were constantly visited and bribed by the CDP-PPM representatives through house-to-house approach.
“The systematic and coordinated operations of the military in cooperation with local government agencies have intensified the human rights violations in the province of Bohol. Oplan Bayanihan and the long history of violations and killings are clearly hiding behind slogans of peace and development. The IFFM has uncovered the real objective of these programs which is but to target people’s organizations and it’s supporting NGOs. They are attacking a movement of farmers, social workers, peasant advocates, health workers and agriculturists who have been advancing aspirations of the rural poor for genuine land reform and genuine rural development,” Mariano stated.
“As a landlord President, BS Aquino and his local counterparts in Bohol had no interest of helping the predicament of farmers. In fact, it is Aquino’s counter-insurgency program that is responsible for more than 130 extrajudicial killings most of which are peasants, incarcerated hundreds for trumped-up charges and harassed thousands from the rural areas. Farmers and the people of Bohol have been struggling for decades to defend their rights to land. We demand the immediate pull out of all military troops in peasant communities in Bohol,” ended Mariano.###