By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla and Gloria Madonna Velarde
MANILA, Philippines- (UPDATE 6:53 PM) Critics of Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III gave him a failing grade for his performance during his first year in office as Chief Executive, while another militant group dismissed his 1-year old goverment as a colossal failure.
In a press conference, militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan0 and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Aquino government failed the Filipino people as the economic condition of the Filipino people continues to hit rockbottom levels in parallel with the still unresolved crimes of corruption of the previous administration and long-running violations of human rights across the country.
KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos described President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III's first year in office as a “colossal failure” saying the administration is “lacking of a clear and decisive political-economic program, particularly for farmers and agriculture, and instead escalated the political attacks against farmers.”
“The Aquino administration’s first year in office is a colossal failure. It is rotten to the core,” says KMP's Ramos adding: “Aquino has no intention of implementing genuine agrarian reform. Hacienda Luisita remains under the monopoly and control of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.”
Ramos noted that “in August last year, barely two months in office, the President’s relatives, the Cojuangco-Aquino clan, desperately pushed for a ‘cooked and crooked compromise agreement’ with so-called farmer-beneficiaries in order to maintain the anti-peasant stock distribution option (SDO) scheme and evade the redistribution of Hacienda Luisita.”
“This ‘compromise agreement,’ tainted with coercion, bribery, and deception, sends a strong message to big landlords across the country that the Aquino administration tolerates such blatant maneuvers and is for the preservation of landlord domination in the countryside,” Ramos added.
He said that “such landlord maneuvers also manifested in his uncle Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr’s. so-called legal victory in the coco levy funds.”
“The continuing plunder of the coco levy fund is the biggest social injustice against poor coconut farmers. What four presidents failed to do in more than 24 years, happened in just one year of Aquino,” says Ramos adding: “At the same time, Aquino failed to prosecute and hold former President Arroyo from the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam.”
The peasant leader also said that the Aquino administration’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is only a continuation of the dreaded Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo administration.
“Oplan Bayanihan is the same brutal dog as Oplan Bantay Laya but with a different collar,” says Ramos.
He said that the Aquino administration hardened the prevailing culture of impunity on extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and human rights violations in the country.
Among the first victims under the Aquino administration are 78-year old peasant leader Pascual Guevarra who was killed by suspected state security forces inside his house in Laur, Nueva Ecija. To date, out of the more than 45 victims of extra-judicial killings, more than 50 percent are farmers.
The previous administration's “legal offensives” characterized by illegal arrest, illegal detention, and filing of trumped-up criminal cases against farmer-leaders persists.
On October 6, Aquino's 98th day in office, Pagkakaisa't Ugnayan ng mga Magbubukid sa Laguna (Pumalag) secretary general Darwin Liwag, together with Pumalag staff Rey Malaborbor and Aries Suazo were arrested by combined elements of the 202nd Brigade and 1st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army led by Lt. Aaron Nasataya in a checkpoint in Barangay Lewin, Lumban, Laguna and were accused as members of the New People's Army. In addition, majority of the Southern Tagalog 72 (ST 72), progressive leaders facing trumped up criminal charges, are farmers.
The KMP said that state abandonment of Philippine agriculture and the rabid implementation of “neoliberal” globalization persist under Aquino.
“Bowing to the dictates of the World Bank to stop the government's rice subsidies, the Aquino administration virtually abolished the National Food Authority by not placing a single cent to the agency's budget for 2011,” Ramos said noting that the current P2.5-billion budget of the NFA was realigned from the allocation for Private-Public Partnership.
“Instead, the administration transferred the NFA's P8-billion budget to another World Bank conditionality, the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program or giving dole-outs to the so-called poorest of the poor that breeds the culture of mendicancy, to be handled by the Department of Social Work and Development,” the peasant leader said.
“Aquino's first year in office shows his penchant for violence and outright neglect of the people's issues and legitimate demands. In the face of more hardships to come in the next five years, the Filipino peasantry will continue to carry out the struggle for genuine change,” the KMP said.
Voices from Central Luzon
The regional farmers’ group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon) described president
“Everybody knows that the Cojuangco-Aquinos, the very family of the president keep their clutches on Hacienda Luisita, dodging land reform and sketching new schemes just to keep the lands away from the farmworkers hands,” said Joseph Canlas, Amgl chairperson.
The group said that Aquino being the president is also the chair of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Committee (PARC), the very body who decided to revoke the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) on December 23, 2005, acted against his mandate when he did not pursue the resolution, performed within the interest of his family, adopted a “hands-off” policy and claimed the issue as an “intra-corporate” dispute.
“Aquino’s presidency only extended the anguish of the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers, roading away from land reform and social justice. At his own backyard, where he has direct involvement, he upheld his feudal trait and served his landlord family, destroying the hope of the farmworkers for reform and upliftment,” Canlas said.
The Supreme Court has yet to decide on the revocation of SDO and farmworkers concern that it would be favorable to the Cojuangco-Aquinos such as the ordering of another referendum that would comprise a scheme similar to SDO.
More cases of landgrabbing
In addition, Amgl said that land grabbing and displacement worsened during the first year of Aquino. The group is citing cases: near the interchange of Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (Sctex) and Sta. Rosa-Tarlac national road in Tarlac City and La Paz town; the 13,000-hectares covered by the Republic Act 10083 or Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act of 2010 (Apeco) in Casiguran and 312-hectare Food Basket program in Maria Aurora, Aurora province; the 386.8-hectares involving 12 barangays in Bayambang town, Pangasinan claimed by the Cojuangco-owned Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) Realty Corp.; land grabbing of military officials and displacement of farmers within the 3,100-hectares in Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija; the 57,930-hectare watershed program of Lopez-controlled Energy Development Corp. (EDC) and California Energy (CalEn) that displaces indigenous peoples’ communities in Pantabangan and Carranglan towns, Nueva Ecija; displacement in many areas in Bataan; massive cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), Certificate of Land Transfer (CLT) and Emancipation Patents (EP) in many towns of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Tarlac and Pangasinan; land grabbing of Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte of the 300-hectares in San Miguel, Bulacan and displacement of farmers cultivating 84-hectares formerly part of Hacienda Davis in Guimba, Nueva Ecija.
“The very cause of these agrarian unrest is Aquino’s implementation of CARPer, which keeps the lands under landlord control and away from the farmers. Instead of realizing land reform, farmers’ CLOAs, CLTs and EPs are massively being cancelled,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that Aquino is extending the programs of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo such as the enhanced “W-corridor” and its road program Metro-Luzon Urban Beltway (MLUB) The corridor is composed superhighways and national roads piercing through the region’s provinces from west to east and south to north. MLUB is primarily composed of the Sctex, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (Tplex), North Luzon East Expressway (Nlex East), Central Luzon Expressway (Clex) and network of national roads. The “W-corridor” is also pinpointed by eco-zones and industrial hubs in the region namely, Masinloc Eco Zone (Zambales), Subic Bay Special Economic Zone and Freeport (Zambales), Bataan Technology Park in Morong, Bataan Export Processing Zone in Mariveles, Clark Special Eco Zone, Hacienda Luisita Eco Zone, Hermosa (Bataan) Eco Zone, Magalang (Pampanga) MADCI, Philippine Jewelry Center in Meycauayan, Bulacan, Gapan, Cabanatuan City and Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija, then towards Baler and Dingalan freeport in Aurora.
“By the very development program adopted by the Aquino government, the interest of the marginalized sectors such as land reform is nowhere to be found. His program and policies treated the region’s farmers as insects or pest that should be wiped out or swept aside,” Canlas said.
Amgl said that the construction of superhighways are converting and planning to convert about 1,222.6-hectares, Tplex has covered about 442.6-hectares, while Clex and Nlex East are planning to convert about 780-hectares. The group said that farmers’ communities, even local government officials are protesting the construction of Tplex as it would cause the trapping of water resulting to massive flooding.
“Aquino is pushing to convert the region’s prime agricultural lands into cemented estates, he is threatening our food security such as Nueva Ecija being the rice granary supplying about 9% of the country’s rice supply. His Public-Private Partnership Progam (PPP) is serving the interest of foreign monopoly, rich businesses and big landlords, not the farmers, indigenous peoples and fisherfolk,” Canlas said.
The group said that Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is a bastardization of the concept. Based from the recent fact-finding missions the group conducted, elements of the military usually base on civillian structures such as barangay halls, daycare centers and local residence. They are ununiformed, using the civilians as human shields, harassing farmers working on their lands and displacing them. Those who struggle for their right to land is usually charged of trumped up charges such as Ernesto Bubod, an Igorot farmer in Pantabangan and Florentino Pagatpatan, farmer from Guimba, Nueva Ecija.
“We dub Aquino’s first year of administration as dark cloud over the region’s farmers, similar to an imminent typhoon to destroy our lives and livelihood, a man-made disaster to wreak havoc in the region, the only way out is for the broad farmers to unite and protect our farms and fight for our rights to land,” Canlas said. (With reports from Sugar Hicap, Ella Mae France and Diwata Marbella #