The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) claimed that the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s eight years of seating in power only brought worsening landlessness, death due to human rights violations and poverty highlighted by the rice crisis under her term.
Based on the studies of the group’s regional chapter KASAMA-TK (KMP Southern Tagalog) and SAGUPA-SB (KMP Eastern Visayas), about 19 to 21% of the gross sales of the harvested palay are left to the peasants who tilled the land. This is due to landlessness where bulk of the harvest would go to landlords as feudal land rent or ground rent that reach to about 33 to 50% of the gross harvest. Forms of feudal rents are such 50-50, 2/3-1/3, ¼ or 1/10, depending on the presence, unity and strength of the peasants organizations at the locality. This also result into a low average income to the peasants, where they only get P23.50 to P40 per day during their cultivation of palay. This is also accompanied by a bulk unpaid family labor, where mothers and children aid in farming to speed up their work.
“With landlessness, many peasants endure low wages in agricultural work. These ranges to P35 to P200 per day, depending on the assertion of farmworkers’ association at the areas. Particularly in Hacienda Luisita, workers were paid by P9.50, after deducting many payments to the already low wages. Sugar farmworkers or ‘sakada’ are paid at P30 to P70 per day. Fisherfolk also receive P100 to P150 for their 20-hour work,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General.
The ill-state of the peasants are brought about by the political and economic set-up of the country’s society where the Arroyo government failed to do fundamental reforms. Landlessness was never resolved but worsened, effecting a depressing trend to wages of farm and agricultural workers.
No positive impact resulted from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program on its 20 years of implementation. Classic cases of agrarian dispute were Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija, Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon, Ayala Lands in Laguna and Batangas, Negros lands, haciendas in Isabela and more. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and courts favored the landlords and foreign investors and against the peasants’ interest as they based their legal decisions on CARP. Thus, CARP is being used by landlords and foreign corporations to keep and grab lands and displace farmers.
Arroyo killed agriculture
“The Arroyo government is also guilty of killing the country’s agriculture. With its total submission to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and pushing the liberalization of agriculture, the country has faced a food crisis which should not be as our country is basically an agricultural economy,” added Ramos.
Since 1995 to 2005, the rice, vegetable and livestock industry were crippled due to the increasing presence of imported agricultural products. Not contented, the Arroyo further increased its importation where the country is now the world’s no. 1 rice importer, farmers and producers were put to debt and low incomes. From 2001 to 2008, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that farmgate prices of rice has only increased by P6 per kg, from P8.17 to P14.13 per kg, where the price of rice has hiked by P12, from P17.54 to P29.38.
Also the local production’s share to the country’s gross supply decreased from 74% to 70%, while imported’s share increased sharply from 7% to 16%. With this data alone, it is unquestionable that the Arroyo government is favoring the imported rice, thus, killing the livelihod of the country’s local rice farmers.
Arroyo killing peasants
Worse, the Arroyo government has killed 553 peasant activist who struggle for genuine land reform, social justice and democracy. Among them were 118 leaders of KMP. Also, 129 have been victims of enforced disappearances and many have been incarcerated in jails accused of fabricated crimes.
Extra-judicial killings (EJK) have victimized KMP National Council members such as Eddie Gumanoy of KASAMA-TK, Renato Pacaide of KMP Far Southern Mindanao. Still missing is Nilo Arado of PAMANGGAS (KMP Panay). Provincial and city leaders were also killed such as Marcelino Beltran of AMT (KMP Tarlac), Celso Pojas of FADC (KMP Davao City) and Fermin Lorico of Kaugmaon (KMP Negros Oriental). The National Deputy Secretary-General for External Affairs Randall Echanis is also in jail being accused of the ‘mass murders’ in Leyte. These are all the result of Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), where militant activists are being killed and victimized.
Arroyo’s continuing peasant oppression
With landlessness being worsened, peasants put into poverty and misery, consequently death and being victims of human rights violations, Arroyo is still planning the worse she could accomplish, the total selling of the country’s lands to foreigners. Arroyo has long boasted of her plans to sell 3 million hectares to foreign agro-corporations. She has already reserved 1 million hectares for Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco-Kuok Group partnership, 1 million hectares to China-firm Fuhua Co., a hybrid rice corporation, another 40,000 hectares to ADGZAR of China, 200,000 hectares to BHG of China, and 60,000 hectares to Pacific Bio-Fields Corp. of Japan.
“Foreigners’ intrusion to the country’s lands would certainly bring a new dark age for the Filipino peasantry. It would be no different to Spanish colonial times where peasants are toiling for the benefit of foreigners. This would put the whole country into submission and future generations would be involuntarily put into slavery,” Ramos said.
“The data regarding Arroyo’s anti-peasant policies and programs are overwhelming and undisputable. Arroyo’s persecution of the peasants extend to oppression of other sectors as crisis are being faced by poor people in the country. Food and rice crises are worsening and this encompass the whole society, and Arroyo’s selling of lands is a blatant violation of our sovereignty and against what our forefathers in Katipunan fought for. These times necessitates urgent action from the people, to oust a dictator, a self-proclaimed leader only out to plunder the country and sell the people to foreigners,” called Ramos.#