Davao region a deadly ground for peasants, IPs

Jan. 22, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday demanded justice to all peasants who continue to fell victims of violence and political killings in the country, as the group marked the 32nd year commemoration of the bloody Mendiola Massacre.

In a statement sent to the media, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said that peasants remain targets of attacks, especially in Davao Region.

“While we remember and give the highest honor to the 13 peasant victims of Mendiola Massacre, we continue to demand justice for them, including the entire victims of political killings in the country, particularly in Southern Mindanao Region that has tallied 94 victims, 74 of which are peasant activists,” said Jay Apiag, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR.

Bloody rights record

On Nov.23, 2018, Edwin Dumpo, 34, peasant activist in Laak, Compostela Valley was killed by suspected agents of 60th Infantry Battalion, according to Karapatan.

Dumpo was a member of Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Dalimdim (NAMADA), an affiliate organization of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR).

The group reported that Dumpo is the latest casualty of attacks targeted against peasants in Davao Region.

Apiag slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “own brand of massacre and bloody rights record” which he said have already claimed the lives of indigenous people and peasants.

The recent killings of IP and peasant leaders took place in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato and the infamous Sagay massacre in Negros Occidental, Apiag said.

“With Duterte’s record of rights abuses and assault against the Filipino people, his ouster will never be enough to offer as justice to all the fatalities of his crimes,” Apiag emphasized.

Justice, peace and genuine social change

Meanwhile, the militant peasant group KMP launched protest actions in various cities and provinces in the country as they honored the martyrdom of the 13 farmers killed during the 1987 Mendiola Massacre.

“We carry their deaths in our hearts as we continue to seek for justice, peace and genuine social change,” said Rafael Mariano, chairperson emeritus of KMP and a survivor of Mendiola Massacre.

Since July 2016, KMP recorded the killings of 177 farmers as the government rolls out its counterinsurgency program dubbed as “Oplan Kapayapaan” and intensified “peace and development operations” in rural communities.

“Three decades have passed since the Mendiola Massacre and farmers are still seeking for social justice. Many more massacres happened under the Duterte administration as this government continues to slay farmers defending their rights to the land,” said Antonio Flores, KMP secretary-general.

Free land distribution

The KMP leader said that free land distribution is “the only justice and retribution that farmers deserve.”

They called out the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government as “bogus” land distribution.

“History has taught us that the possession of a CLOA (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) is not an absolute guarantee of a farmer’s right to security of tenure on the land. This lingering situation of injustice and the absence of genuine land reform perpetuates land monopoly, landlessness, and poverty of farmers. Landlessness is among the causes of the ensuing armed conflict to which the Duterte administration chose to address with a full-scale war,” Mariano said.

In the midst of a worsening situation, KMP vowed to continue its campaigns to defend farmers’ lands against land grabbing, land use conversion, and resist the intensified attacks and militarization of peasant communities. (davaotoday.com)

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