More lands to reclaim after MARBAI

Karapatan expresses support for peasants’ push for free land distribution, genuine agrarian reform.

Karapatan salutes and stands in solidarity with the farmers known as Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Inc. or MARBAI, in their successful installation in the 145-hectare land in Tagum City, Davao del Norte that were taken by Lapanday Foods Inc. of the Lorenzo clan, despite legal orders in favor of the farmers.

Their campaign is an expression of the assertion of the collective right to do justice to the thousands of farmers who were victims of landgrabbing and numerous cases of harassment and threats to the lives and security of their families. It is an assertion not just of their right to till, but to obtain the fruits of their labor, and be free from exploitative and oppressive agreements under the banana plantation company for a long time.

The MARBAI farmers proved time and again that the farmers’ right to till will not simply be given to them, and that legal orders can be denied and disregarded. What remains decisive is direct collective action, and a firm resolve to fight for people’s rights. Land is life for the farmers, and all other sectors in society should support them in their fight.

Reports yesterday, May 21, indicate that armed security guards of Lapanday Foods Inc. continue to harass the farmers, while Philippine Army amphibian vehicles were also seen on standby near the farmers’ camp-out area. We should support the farmers against the Lorenzo clan’s threats, harassment and efforts to remove the farmers from the said land.

We condemn the filing of graft and administrative charges against Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano who helped install the farmers of MARBAI, returning from their camp-out in Manila and dialogue with Pres. Duterte in Malacanang. We call on the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss the harassment charges against Sec. Ka Paeng, and let justice for the farmers prevail.

Karapatan unequivocally supports that struggle of peasants all over the country, should they do the same to other haciendas and plantations. It is appalling that in this time and age, Filipino farmers remain engulfed in the old exploitative feudal system, oppressed and impoverished by landlords, while our lands are converted to lands that will produce cash crops to satisfy global markets.

It’s the same banana, in many haciendas like Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Yulo, among others -- that of landgrabbing, with farmers forced to enter into unjust agreements, and constantly threatened with State forces being used as private armies and goons of landlords. Such is the historical injustice to the farmers, that they bear all the right and justification to claim what is rightfully theirs.

Pres. Duterte should continue and implement free land distribution, as he announced in recent months. There should be a decisive action to make way for genuine development by supporting our farmers. Change comes from building an independent economy that supplies the food and the needs of the people, without the shackles of foreign unjust policies that tie our hands to dependence on foreign economies.

The installation of the MARBAI farmers comes on the eve of the fifth round of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). We look forward to the discussions on free land distribution as among the core principles of provisions on agrarian reform and rural development in the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).

The fight of the MARBAI farmers continues, for the landlords continue to reign in a vast majority of lands in the Philippines. We call for all rights advocates to continue to stand with the MARBAI farmers, support the call to free land distribution, and push for an economy that that will ensure the genuine development for the majority of the Filipino people. ###


*Image courtesy of Kilab Multimedia