“The military’s refusal to suspend all military operations and pull-out from communities, despite overwhelming clamor of peasants and national minorities, and the poisonous duet of warmongers Delfin Lorenzana and Eduardo Ano to sabotage the continuing peace talks reveal their disdain for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, after the fourth round of talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in The Netherlands on April 3 to 6, 2017.
While there are remaining contentious provisions in the section on agrarian reform and rural development and further discussions on national industrialization and economic development are still needed, Palabay said that the firming up of the agreement of both parties on free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is a significant outcome. “At the heart of the ongoing armed conflict is the prevalent landlessness and feudal exploitation of peasants,” she said.
“With the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary groups acting as private armies of big landlords in the country, the objectives behind their constant terror attacks against farmers and indigenous peoples are in plain view. They protect the interests of landlords and big business, because they profit from it, hence giving peasants the land they tilled for decades and centuries is farthest from their fascist minds,” Palabay said.
Karapatan also scored the AFP on the recent killings of two peasant leaders in Mindanao and the forced evacuation of peasant communities in Calbiga, Samar.
On April 2, 2017, farmer Danilo Nadal, 37, was gunned down in Brgy. Tibagun, Pantukan, Compostela Valley by suspected agents of the 46th IBPA while boarding his motorcycle. He sustained 10 gunshot wounds. Nadal was a member of the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Pantukan (HUMAPAN) and a vocal critic of the ongoing militarization and rights abuses in the region. Four days later, another farmer, Elias Pureza, 60, was shot dead by assailants believed to be agents under the 60th IBPA in Brgy. Mamangan, San Isidro, Davao del Norte. Pureza was shot in front of his family when armed men forcefully entered his home on the evening of April 6. He was an active member of Farmers Association of Isidro (FASI) in Davao del Norte.
On April 4, 2016, around 1,000 residents from 4 interior barangays of Calbiga town in Samar evacuated to the town gymnasium and civic center due to the continuing encampment of 87th IBPA troops in their communities. Residents from 12 more barangays also evacuated on April 6. Contrary to reports from the AFP, evacuees are still staying at the gym, to protest against the ongoing militarization of their communities.
“They kill peasants and indigenous peoples, drop bombs and encamp on their communities, and arrest and detain them. How fascist and anti-poor can you get?” Palabay said.
Karapatan echoed the calls of peasant and indigenous communities to pull out the military from communities. “Military presence and operations cause unpeace in most, if not all, communities. Nobody is buying their sorry attempts to portray themselves as messiahs, except their fellow warmongers and hacienderos in government,” Palabay concluded.