GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

Under the gloomy skies of June, our fields were filled with blood and terror. The rain pours like tears, bloody tears of injustice and traumatic experiences of our farmers and indigenous people in the countryside.

The continuing crackdown against militants and progressive forces in Davao region is getting bloody and utterly ugly. Last week, state forces unleashed their brutality against our poor farmers and indigenous people, claiming three lives and risking dozens in two separate incidents.

The birthday celebration of the 12 year-old daughter of Aida Seisa, secretary general of the peasant group Paquibato District Peasant Association (Padipa) on June 14 was disrupted by indiscriminate firing by the 69th IB of the Philippine Army in Purok 4 Barangay Paradise Embac, Paquibato District in Davao city.

Tribal leader of Sitio Manipis Datu Ruben Enlog, farmers Oligario Quimbo and Randy Carnasa died while the daughter of Seisa was wounded. Actually, they did not just die, they were murdered by the fascist armed forces of the Aquino regime.

Seisa, together with the indigenous people in their community, were known to be ardent defenders of the poor farmers’ struggle for land.

Exactly a week after the Paquibato massacre, peasant leader Bello Tindasan, chairperson of Compostela Farmer’s Association (CFA), was the latest target of the crackdown. On June 21, around 3:20 PM, while Tindasan was out for a meeting, soldiers from the notorious 66th Infantry Battalion of the Army open fired at his residence in Sitio Mambusao, Barangay Ngan in Compostela town. His 14-year-old son was wounded while his wife and their 2-year-old daughter were traumatized.

The incident occurred two days after the dispersal of the People’s Barricade against the entry of big mining company Agusan Petroleum (AgPet). It can be recalled that during the dispersal, the commanding officer of the 66th IB, Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert Ruiz threatened Tindasan and his group, saying that they can open fire at the barricade.

The 66th IB gained notoriety as culprits in the killing of members of New Bataan Farmers Association, Gorio Buya and the Digaynons – the father and son lumad farmers in 2014.

Tindasan was known for his fierce stance against the mining company AgPet that threatens the livelihood of poor farmers, small-scale miners and indigenous people. AgPet’s application for a mining claim at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau will cover 12, 416.44 hectares of land in Compostela Valley and portions of Davao Oriental.

Inexcusable

Meanwhile, the Army refuted the claims of the victims and the locals. They consider the Paquibato massacre and the Mambusao incident as “legitimate encounter” against the New People’s Army (NPA).

Rational thinking and common sense (which is not so common with the AFP nowadays) suggest that such excuses do not make any sense and are utterly inexcusable. For one, the incidents took place in the residences of peasant leaders and known critics of the landlord Aquino regime, not to mention that the strafing incidents were gross violations of the rules of war, both in the international and local covenants and agreements.

Apparently, there is a pattern of consistent claims of encounter against the NPA by the AFP to sugarcoat these human rights violations while sowing terror on the locals. The people cannot be fooled by such futile excuses.

The rainy season of June is supposedly a season of planting for our farmers, but they are threatened by dislocation and consistently terrorized by brutality of state forces.

Despite these threats, the peasants and the indigenous people of Southern Mindanao Region are more than willing to defend their right to land and resources.

A popular saying can best describe the resolute commitment of these people: “they tried to bury us, but they did not know we were seeds”.

The fields drenched in blood are very fertile for the struggle for justice to bloom.

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