A good friend and teacher once wrote: “Agriculture is culture. Culture is people”. This statement reminds us of the central concern on agriculture, it is about people. Beyond crop production and livestock raising, it is always about people who feed the entire planet. It is about the oppressed peasant class of the world.
In October, less than a month from now, we will be celebrating the Peasant Month. Apparently, there is no reason to celebrate with the recent attacks against the Filipino peasantry. For months now, farmers in Mindanao suffered major blows of gross human rights violations: massacres, torture, illegal arrest and abduction among other brutal acts inflicted by state forces and its sycophants.
Fifteen farmers were illegally arrested by combined forces of the 23rd and 8th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army and forced to board an army helicopter on August 27, 2015 in Brgy White Culaman Kitaotao town in bukidnon province. Collectively known as Culaman 15, among those who were arrested were Elizardo Labadan, Editha Bontao, Jun Pellazar, Camilo Asunan, Noeda Manlumaray and nine others including peasant leader Ellen Manlimbaas who chairs Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman (Namabaw). The Culaman 15 were brought to Maramag, in Bukidnon and trumped-up charges were filed against them.
On August 18, five lumads (Indigenous People) were summarily executed in Barangay Mendis Pangantucan town in Bukidnon. A fifteen year-old survivor in a press conference disproves the claim of the military that his father and brothers were casualties in an encounter between the New People’s Army. The victims were Herminio Samia the survivor’s father and his elder brothers Joebert and Emir, and relatives Norman and Elmer.
Herminio known as Datu Intabol is a high ranking chieftain in their tribal village and impossibly to be an NPA fighter at the same time.
In two separate incidents farmers and agriculture educators in Surigao were brutally murdered. In Km.16, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Emerito Samarca popularly known as “Tatay Emok” and two companions Dionel Campos Chairman of the local peasant organization MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod) and his cousin Bello Sinza were murdered inside the premises of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV).
Samarca is the current Executive Director of ALCADEV, an educational institution that provides alternative learning for locals who cannot afford costly education in agricultural universities. ALCADEV fills in the ineptness of the government in providing access on agricultural technology to improve production.
On August 27, two farmers were also murdered in Barangay San Miguel, Siagao, Surigao del Sur. Crisanto and his brother Ely Tabugol was allegedly killed by Hiyasmin a cell of the paramilitary group Bagani.
Infamously known as the Paquibato Massacre, soldiers of the 69th Infantry Battalion openly fired at the house of peasant leader Aida Seisa on June 14 in Sitio Paradise Embac Paquibato District Davao City.
It was the eve of the birthday of Seisa’s daughter. The Paquibato massacre claimed the lives Datu Ruben Enlog, farmers Oligario Quimbo and Randy Carnasa. Seisa survived the attack, but her life is still under threat and consistently being harassed by state forces.
Just a week after the Paquibato massacre, the house of Bello Tindasan in Sitio Mambusao Barangay Ngan, Compostela town in Compostela Valley Province was openly fired by suspected members of the 66thInfantry Batalion of the AFP. The strafing damaged the properties of Tindasan and wounded his 14-year-old son.
If we are to look closer on these incidents, there are conclusions, logical conclusions, far beyond the state’s whimsical excuses.
First, these carnages were not isolated events, in fact these are systematic attacks against the peasantry and the lumads under the counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan.
Second, as 2016 approaches, the supposed deadline of Oplan Bayanihan, with its imminent failure to eliminate or significantly weaken the ever-growing revolutionary forces, the state is in a desperate position to target civilians as the latter are vulnerable from their fascist terror.
Third, the increasing human rights violations is an indicator of the deepening crises of the semi-feudal society and the snowballing people’s dissent.
As we call for justice and clamor to end militarization in Mindanao, I definitely agree with Fr. Christopher Ablon: “Every time you kill an innocent civilian lumad you are raising a whole new tribe of insurgents. Every time you kill a human rights worker you are raising a whole new generation of revolutionaries. Every time you kill unjustly you are growing a painful seed of justice. And it will grow. And it shall overcome. It’s all just a matter of time.”