Madam President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo:
From 2001 when you assumed power to 2006, 38 farmer-leaders were slain in cold blood. Two more were killed since -- TFM’s Pepito Santillan in Negros Occidental on January 25 and UNORKA's Joseph Matunding in Iloilo on January 30. KMBP's Heliolito Abrenica could have been the third had he not survived the bolo-hacking by a goon identified with a big landowner in San Francisco, Quezon. He, however, lost his left hand.
More limbs and lives are likely to be sacrificed unless you act quickly and resolutely. Records of PARRDS indicate that there are 2,342 leaders and organizers whose lives are threatened by goons and security guards of big
landowners and plantations as well as others in their service, including policemen, barangay tanods, and members of so-called revolutionary forces.
The farmers have experienced five years of murders, frustrated murders, arson, physical assaults, grave threats, forced evacuations, harassment cases, destruction of properties, and strafing of houses, especially in agrarian
reform hotspots like Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Iloilo, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Sarangani, Mindoro Occidental, Batangas, Quezon, and Masbate.
No less than the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has attributed the killings and violence to your government's apparent disregard for meaningful implementation of agrarian reform. Apparently in response, you were quoted on February 6 by a national newspaper as saying:
“There is a new paradigm that is being proposed to open new lands for agriculture so that we can give farmers a chance to have their own land and, yet, avoid all this bloodshed that is happening (in the implementation of land reform).”
Is this “new paradigm” going to be still another attempt to avoid implementing agrarian reform law due to landowner pressure? The Melo Commission you set up to probe the extra-judicial killings, including those involving peasants as victims, submitted a report to you in December 2006. Why has it not been made public?
As a community of civil society organizations and human rights advocates concerned with the plight of farmers struggling for agrarian reform, we appeal to you, Madam President, to please:
1. Make public the report of the Melo Commission, especially the results of its
investigation of agrarian reform-related killings and violence;
2. Prosecute all perpetrators of agrarian-related human rights violations, whether they be private sector goons, police forces, or agents of so-called revolutionary groups; and,
3. Implement agrarian reform speedily and fairly especially in contentious landholdings, taking into consideration the rights of the legitimate farmers.
Most. Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma,
SJ, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro ; Fr. Robert Reyes Sr. Maluz Mijares, OSA and Br. Edmundo Fernandez, FSC, Co-Chairpersons,
AMRSP ; Sr. Arnold Ma. Noel, Sulong CARHRIHL
Fr. Archie Casey SX, Xaverian Missionaries ; Sr Crescencia L. Lucero SFIC, TFD
Sen. Wigberto Tanada, PRRM ; Gerardo Bulatao ; Christian S. Monsod ; Oscar D. Francisco ; Ricardo Reyes ; Clifford Burkley
Conrado S. Navarro, AJF ; Ria Miclat-Teves, PDI ; Rep. Loretta Ann P. Rosales, AKBAYAN ; Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, AKBAYAN ; Edicio G. Dela Torre ; Karen N. Tanada, GZO Peace Institute ; Max de Mesa, PAHRA
Apolonio Pacardo, UNORKA-Pilipinas ; Armando Jarilla, Task Force Mapalad ; Loreto Caman, PASAMAKA ; Edgardo Lopez, KMBP
Liwayway Caparas, UNORKA-Southern Tagalog ; UNORKA-Mindanao ; Diosdado B. Calmada, PEACE Foundation, Inc.
Belinda Formanes, PARRDS ; Danilo Bernal, QUARDDS ; Mark Amor, MFDC ; Hon. Arnold Betita, PROGRESO
Nestor Eugenio, PKSK ; Ernie Lim, AR Now! ; Jane Capacio, KAISAHAN ; Rene Cerilla, PAKISAMA
Ian Rivera Jr, Kalayaan ; Linn Ramos, CARET ; Carmen Flores-Obanil, CSI ; Pat Gonzales, MODE, Roy Ribo, ARC
Atty. Barry Gutierrez, UP-IHR ; Joel Rocamora ; Gil Navarro, PATH ; Auxilium Toling-Olayer ; Loreine dela Cruz, FIND ; Balay -
Edeliza P. Hernandez, MAG ; Atty. Jae dela Cruz ; Prof. Tita Mallari ; Kubol ng Pag-asa ; Ma. Lourdes Magtibay, Pandayan
Asian Human Rights Commission (Hongkong) ; Dr. Saturnino M. Borras Jr., Saint Mary's University (Halifax, Canada)
Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South ; Evert de Boer, Philippine Solidarity Group Netherlands (FGN)
Sari Peltonen, Finnish-Philippine Society, Finland ; Brid Brennan, Transnational Institute (Netherlands) ; Nonoi Hacbang, CFMW
Dr. Jennifer C. Franco, TNI (Amsterdam) ; Philipp Bueck, Philippinenbuero im Asienhaus
Andreas Herrmann and Sarah Potthoff, International Peace Observers Network (Germany) ; Roger Daenekindt, Bond Belgium