Murder of Peasant Leader Elicits Condemnation of Govt, CARP

Apr. 26, 2006

DAVAO CITY The assassination on Monday of a peasant leader in Panabo demonstrates once again the campaign of repression against agrarian-reform activists and reformists, cause-oriented and human-rights groups said on Wednesday.

Enrico Cabanit, secretary-general of the Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (Unorka), a peasant organization that has been campaigning for agrarian-reform in Davao del Norte, was gunned down on April 24 at a public market.

His daughter, Daffodil, was in critical condition after she, too, was shot by the bonnet-wearing assassin.

Cabanits deathdemonstrates the current repression of agrarian-reform and social reformists, said Mary Luz Feranil, executive director of the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, a Davao-based NGO.

Cabanit was the fourth agrarian-reform activist in the Philippines killed this month. On April 22, Rico Adeva, a community organizer of the agrarian-reform group Task Force Mapalad was killed in Silay City.

On April 6, another peasant activist, Nicanor Briones, and five of his companions survived an assassination attempt in Naga City. Briones was wounded in the attack.

Several activists and peasant leaders from other groups, such as Bayan, Bayan Muna and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas have been killed in the past few years.

Instead of sowing fear among social activists, the current clampdown instills rage and strengthens commitment and inspiration among AR advocates to pursue the fight for justice and right to land and food security, Feranil said.

Cabanits death, she said, symbolizes the hunger and deprivation of the countrys landless peasants who after 18 years of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program still do not have access and control of the land rightfully belonging to them.

Agrarian reform advocates have long complained not only of the Carps failure but the backlash this has generated against peasants and peasant leader, whom the military would routinely label as communists.

Although there are no evidence so far to indicate that Cabanits murder was related to his peasant work, Feranil pointed out in a statement released on Wednesday that Cabanit had been dismissed as a farm worker at a banana plantation owned by the Floirendos and that he and his group had been campaigning to include the Floirendo farms in the agrarian-reform program.

Two hours before the shooting, Fernail said, Cabanit and Unorka members were in a meeting with officials from the Department of Agrarian Reform where the peasants followed up cases involving Floirendo land that has not been put under Carp.

The government must protect us, citizens from private individuals or corporations using violence to prevent the peoples access to land and other productive assets, Feranil said. The Arroyo government has the obligation to fulfill the peoples right to adequate food by genuinely distributing the remaining commercial farms and private agricultural lands still under the control of a few families and corporations.

Meanwhile, the Hongkong-based Asian Human Rights Commission launched an appeal on Wednesday to pressure authorities to solve the murders of activists and peasant leaders.

Enricos murder is believed to have been connected to his struggle for land reform and distribution of lands to poor farmers who are beneficiaries of Carp. He confronted wealthy and influential landowners in the area, including the Floirendos, the commission said in a statement.

Various groups, such as Task Force Mapalad, Pandayan, Unorka, and Kilos AR! have condemned these killings, calling it a testament to [the governments] pathetic implementation of the Carp.

The agrarian-reform program was implemented in 1988 and is set to end in 2008. Farmers and peasants, however, have complained that its objective to distribute millions of hectares of lands to Filipinos have not been achieved. On the contrary, they claimed, landlords have opposed the implementation, often with the collusion of the government and the military. (

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