August 29, 2011
Peasant offensives in Southern Tagalog Despite AFP Militarization
Los Angeles-- The Pesante NEWS based in Los Angeles reported today that the peasant movement in Southern Tagalog is gaining ground despite AFP militaization in that region.
The PESANTE NEWS also learned that the impoverished masses in the Southern Tagalog (ST) countryside are now organized under a peasant movement with a strong regional center. Provincial chapters have begun to rise anew from the surviving 54 chapters in various levels found in areas with existing cases of agrarian disputes and where the peasant masses are being threatened with eviction. Chapters continue to expand and new ones built on varying levels.
Chapters in the region’s island province are gradually recovering from the blows dealt by militarization and state terrorism the previous year.
Peasant associations are able to hold regular meetings and consultations and provide mass and political education in countryside communities with growing frequency. From its wealth of experience, the peasant movement has identified the main issues and peasant campaigns that must be launched in order to mobilize the peasantry in their numbers.
Relying on their own strength, the peasants have not only been able to thwart the most brutal attacks on their rights and welfare, they have also succeeded in advancing their interests. They have been able to do so by launching militant campaigns and expanding and consolidating their ranks in the process.
Among these were the courageous battles against militarization and human rights abuses as well as psywar emanating from special state agents—all waged amid allout struggles to advance genuine agrarian reform.
History of Struggle
For genuine agrarian reform. The militant peasant movement in the region with its rich history and tradition has proven that the advancement of the struggle for genuine land reform lies in its hands.
The peasant movement in Southern Tagalog advocates an agrarian reform program that will truly liberate the peasant class from poverty and landlessness through its active advancement in the region’s countryside. The peasants keep agricultural lands productive and strengthen cooperativism in communal farms to enable them to physically defend lands that are being seized by landlords or subjected by real estate developers to land-use conversion.
One big blow for the peasants in Southern Tagalog was the Supreme Couert's decision granting the ownership of the coconut industry and levy to premier landlord Danding Cojuanco and the San Miguel Corporation. This erased one and for all the militant gains of the coconut farmers struggle against the levy and Cojuanco monoploy. Danding is the uncle of the present President Benigno Aquino III.
The inutile, loophole-ridden and bogus CARP has failed to make a dent even among the first batch of peasants who had earlier been deceived into reposing their hope in the state’s fake agrarian reform scheme.
An example is the coconut levy and the Cojuanco monopoly on the coconut industry. The peasants systematically reoccupied landholdings that had been subjected to CARP and were inevitably reconcentrated in the hands of landlords and real estate developers. Collectively, they continued to till these lands to maintain their productivity and agricultural character.
These notable peasant struggles spread from the Quezon and Batangas uplands to the plains of Cavite even if the agricultural lands involved were located in the middle of commercial centers.
Many peasant communities have benefited from these collective actions that resulted in reduced land rent, more rational systems of harvest sharing, higher wages for agricultural workers and other economic benefits.
Anti-militarization. Landgrabbing is accompanied by violence against those being deprived of their rights, be this in the form of simple threats and harassment or outright terrorism. Various state agencies and institutions are utilized to enforce fascist and antipeople schemes.
It comes as no surprise that military troops maintain a heavy presence in the region’s provinces. There are at least seven Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force battalions stationed in Batangas, which also has the most number of agrarian cases on record.
Similarly, there has been no reduction in the number of military forces in Quezon and Mindoro in a long time. These provinces are perceived by the state as areas where the rural poor wage the strongest revolutionary and armed resistance. The military forces stationed in these provinces are the leading implementors of pro-landlord programs.
The number of military troops deployed in the region has even increased after December 2010, when the AFP’s latest counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan was declared operational.
Contrary to the regime’s claims that military abuses have waned under Oplan Bayanihan, violations of human and civil rights have risen in the region. Southern Tagalog has had 12 victims of extrajudicial killing under Benigno Aquino III. The trumped-up murder charges against 72 of the region’s mass leaders and activists (the “ST-72”) has also been revived under Aquino’s watch after being thrown out of court for lack of merit and due to a technicality.
Southern Tagalog has 55 political prisoners. One of them is Darwin “Tatso” Liwag, vice chair of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan. Most of the region’s political prisoners are peasant leaders or hail from farming communities.
Heightened deception. The region’s peasantry does not only have to contend with outright violence. Brute force is always accompanied by deception. For this, the state organizes or mobilizes bogus peasant associations that sow deceptive ideas.
Some of these groups that pretend to be pro-peasant are AKBAYAN, UNORKA, PAKISAMA, PARRDS, PARAGOS, PAMMBUKID-KA, KASAKA-TK, KMBP, CARET, AR NOW, CENTRO-SAKA and PEACE Foundation (Araro PL). These organizations serve as special psywar agents of the government and the AFP to derail the peasant masses from pursuing their goal of liberation and to maintain feudal and semifeudal rule in the countryside.
Around 20 small reformist and bogus peasant organizations have been documented in the region. They have been attempting to ensnare the peasantry into treading the path of reformism by destroying the base of the militant peasant movement and the solidarity of the rural poor to enable the landlords and their co-conspirators to continue exploiting and ruling the countryside.