Karapatan calls out Bello, GRP peace panel's indifference to Lapanday farmers' longstanding problems

The Lorenzo clan, among the wealthiest landlords in the country who controls around 15,000 acres of land across the Philippines, is refusing to distribute 145 hectares of land in Madaum Village, Tagum City. The said land has been awarded by the government to farm workers in 2015, its distribution to farmer-beneficiaries backed by orders from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“The Lorenzos, along with State actors colluding to deny land distribution to farmer-beneficiaries, are rights violators. They have not only denied the farmers what is due them, but have killed and endangered the lives of the farmers," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.



"If the Government of the Republic of the Philippines negotiating panel in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front is serious in talking about the roots of the armed conflict, then where is its condemnation for this outright attack against peasants rightfully demanding what is theirs? Where is the condemnation against Lapanday Food Corp.? If GRP negotiating panel head Sec. Silvestre Bello III remains indifferent to the longstanding roots of the armed conflict such as feudal exploitation and oppression, but is quick to condemn the actions of the New People's Army to defend the farmers, his peace rhetoric is nothing but a PR spin,” said Palabay.

The GRP negotiating panel, headed by Bello, formally filed a complaint before the Norwegian government regarding NPA attacks on Lapanday Food Corp. (LFC) in Davao City. Prior to this, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) sent a letter to the GRP peace panel on April 1, 2017, urging them to immediately act on the issue and demands of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) farmworkers, the beneficiaries of the land currently held by LFC.

The said letter recommended an investigation against LFC to hold the company accountable for the frustrated killing and wounding of farmers last December, as well as for the Lorenzos to recognize the land awarded to farmers and readily comply with the said distribution. The office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has been formally furnished a copy of the letter. As of this time, the GRP has yet to respond to UMA's letter.

“We challenge the GRP panel to investigate and act on the numerous violations committed against peasants, most if not all have been long submitted to them, and not just take up the cudgels for big landlords and their private armies, as well as State security forces. We likewise challenge the GRP to direct their attention to continuing military operations which have resulted to grave human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killing of 55 farmers, activists, and members of progressive organizations, in line with the military's counter-insurgency program,” said Palabay.

Palabay added that “if the GRP is truly serious in resolving the root causes of unrest in the country, then it should start by addressing the oppression inflicted on peasants by the landed elite, in cahoots with corporations and politicians.”

“When the people resist and fight to claim what is due them, even if it is already reinforced by court decisions, State security forces can still be readily deployed to repress and subdue protests. Such incidents repeatedly show that in this system, the interest of the wealthy few trumps the welfare of the majority, with the government and its security forces acting either as accomplices or inutile spectators. It is the State’s own directives which have fueled resistance throughout these years. So keep your State security forces and the interest of both national and local gov’t officials in check, Secretary Bello, for they themselves are the main impediments to any attempts in forging a just and lasting peace. Look at your own backyard and you will find the violators that made the situation of the poor untenable and the people’s resistance inevitable,” concluded Palabay.