“Of the 46 victims of political killings under Duterte, majority are from the peasants – leaders and members of local peasant organizations who have been targeted by State security forces and/or private armies of the landed elite for asserting their rights,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the continuing political killings. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today led a nationwide mass action against the spate of extrajudicial killings of peasants.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has specified that among the 46 documented cases by Karapatan, 19 were killed due to agrarian-related disputes. Palabay said that “a genuine land reform program remains an elusive goal as past governments remained hell-bent on passing laws with loopholes that landlords simply skate through.”
“It becomes a more challenging task as those in government also belong to the landed elite in the country. The crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social Economic Reforms (CASER) is an important undertaking, putting to the table the historical and structural inequalities that has maintained and worsened the feudal exploitation of the majority, with the objective of changing it.”
The CASER is among the substantive agenda in the formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which will tackle free land distribution, among other aspects of agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization. Progress has been notably positive before the GRP cancelled the peace talks. The continuation of the peace talks opens the possibility of continuing discussions, finalization and the eventual signing of the CASER as a binding agreement between the GRP and the NDFP.
Genuine agrarian reform has been a long-standing issue that has plagued the past and present administrations. Among the positive developments under the Duterte administration is the appointment of peasant leader and organizer Rafael Mariano as the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform. The confirmation of his appointment, however, remains in limbo as the Commission on Appointments (CA) bypassed him yet again, along with Department of Social Welfare and Development Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, last March 15, 2017.
Palabay said that “the deferment of confirmation of DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano’s appointment by the CA means there are many forces at work, such as big landlords and corporations, to impede efforts towards free distribution of land to farmers and the moratorium on land conversion. Indeed, when the status quo is threatened from proceeding like business is as usual, efforts of progressive officials who spearhead substantial changes are being blocked.”
“What we need is a government who is for the majority not just in rhetoric, but most importantly, in action. Words of peace have very little bearing when people who fight for their basic rights are being killed on the ground. Walk the talk, Mr. President. You say you will protect the majority of the Filipinos, and who are the majority but the farmers and workers clearly demanding for genuine land reform and an end to contractualization,” added Palabay.
“More than ever, there is urgency to talk about the roots of unrest and armed rebellion. If exploitation, landlessness, and suffering continues without any real prospect of reforms and change, then the people will be duty-bound to exhaust all means possible to address and change the system which, for so long, have perpetrated their destitution,” Palabay concluded.