Farmers lift protest fast at DAR office


The farmers accused Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes of deceiving the public when he said the DAR would be able to distribute 160,000 hectares of land by the end of 2012.

Farmers demanding the ouster of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes have lifted a weeklong hunger strike following a dialogue with Cabinet officials over the weekend.

But the Church-backed Task Force Mapalad (TFM) working with the farmers said the lifting of the fast was a temporary “ceasefire” for the holidays.

“If the farmers had their way, they will not stop their hunger strike, even if it is Christmas,” said Lanie Factor, deputy national coordinator of the advocacy group.

Alberto Jayme, TFM-Negros president, announced yesterday the temporary lifting of the hunger strike following the meeting with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman Saturday night.

Jayme said in a statement this would allow President Aquino “to hasten” the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) “and provide solutions to the problems we have raised.”

He said that foremost of the strikers’ complaint was the alleged dismal performance of De los Reyes, a charge the secretary has denied.

The hunger strike by 56 farmers, who claim to represent 20,000 TFM members mostly from Negros Occidental, began on Dec. 16 at the main office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City. A dozen of them were on the fourth floor, outside the office of De los Reyes. The rest were encamped outside the compound.

At least 39 of them had collapsed because of chest pains, dizziness and weakness and were hospitalized, but they went back to fast after their recovery.

“They have now eaten. We plan to hold a simple noche buena of pancit and bread for them. It’s so hard to be in their shoes, to be far away from home and family during Christmas,” Factor said Sunday.

Jayme said the farmers agreed to suspend their action but would remain at the DAR building.

“This is a ceasefire, and in any ceasefire, both parties are not obliged to stop maintaining their vigilance and abandon their struggle. On our part, the struggle for land goes on and we shall persist in asking that a new steward be placed at the DAR,” he said.

Factor added that by the second week of January, more farmers would be at the DAR building to support the resumption of the hunger strike and in urging the sacking of De los Reyes.

In June, the group met with Abad and later with President Aquino, who pledged to speed up the acquisition and distribution of land under the CARP, the issuance of notices of coverage on landholdings 25 hectares and lower, and the release of P1 billion in loan assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

The farmers accused De los Reyes of deceiving the public when he said the DAR would be able to distribute 160,000 hectares of land by the end of 2012.

Jayme previously noted that out of the original aim of distributing 260,000 hectares of land for 2012, De los Reyes lowered the DAR’s target to 180,000 hectares

Out of this target, only 49,349 hectares of land have been distributed as of Dec. 13, Jayme said, citing DAR records.

During Saturday’s meeting, the farmers’ representatives issued a five-point demand to Abad, who reportedly promised to work on all, except the firing of De los Reyes.

“All we could commit was to bring this to the attention of the President, who has the first say on the fate of the Cabinet,” Abad said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Soliman said she and Abad asked the farmers to lift their hunger strike.

“When we finished the meeting, it was not clear they would do so. We requested that in the spirit of Christmas, let us allow ourselves to celebrate the season in peace,” Soliman said.

De los Reyes has said he is prepared to step aside if the President wants him out.

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  • boybakal

    Farmers lift protest fast at DAR office….

    Based on what I read about agrarian reform….panahon pa ito ni Magsaysay kaya nagkaroon ng mga Huk after the war.
    Panahon ni Marcos, NPA gusto ng lupa sa magsasaka. Nagkaroon ng land reform…Land for the Tillers of the soil
    After so many years and Presidents…ito pa rin ang problema sa kasalukuyan.
    Ibig sabihin ang problem di Gobyerno kundi itong mga Farmers.
    O baka naman di sila ang Genuine or Bonafide Farmers, kaya laging may problema sa lupa.

  • fair play

    why dont these farmers fast to death / They are being manipulated by leftists to pressure the govt in granting them absurd demand! Wake up farmers or pseudo farmers. Btw who gives subsistene to your families while you are away!  Leftist congressmen pork barrels?

  • Klepto

    Good. Stop hurting yourselves but those who do not listen. Now get your AK47s and fleed to the mountains, come back down only when you are ready.

  • jjammess

    Let us distribute the philippines equally to all. We should divide all lands equally to 90 million filipinos. Let us divide it now before population grew bigger so we can have bigger share. I want mine in makati. Don’t u agree bishops?

  • ever green


  • Benito Juarez

    Poor, old farm hands
    are slowly vanishing; new serfs are emerging, who will, like
    their tired and weary elders, toil the lands that even their honest ancestors
    have never owned. Old-fashioned
    farmers, with old-fashioned tools and steeds, with old fashioned coarse hands
    are not to be emancipated by old fashioned DAR officials. The farmlands that provide shelter and comfort to farmers whose
    resentments and sorrows of past Governments and Nature’s onslaughts are recounted loudly and gently
    to the Spirit Who give them solace and atonement.  DAR officers don’t you see the strengths and persistence of farmers to
    produce good harvests today in order to feed millions tomorrow? 

  • Komen To

    “The DAR would be able to distribute 160,000 hectares of land by the end of 2012″. Well if the secretary can meet his goal, then keep him. Otherwise, we expect an honorable resignation. Is that fair?

  • CPCook

    The lifting of the fasting shows the lack of commitment of the farmers to their own cause. So, what’s next? Do a fast again sometime next year and then stop again? I appears that the farmers only do their fasting as a publicity stunt. If they think that reason is behind them, there is no need to do any fasting. Unfortunately, these poor farmers (not necessarily due to lack of material resources) are being manipulated by some groups who resort to these theatrics. How does fasting really advance one’s cause except for the publicity it generates? I think it is time for the farmers and their puppeteers to really think on how to advance their cause. I am just a newsreader and instead of sympathy to the farmers and their puppeteers, I feel anger toward them for involving themselves to non-productive endeavors rather than planting or doing anything else productive.

    • zeroko

      Crazy you! Why not volunteer to go on fasting yourself before you take their fasting so lightly. Better if you jump to the river and get drowned. If you are the tenant-farmer, would you enjoy working for a measly salary which is not even enough to keep your body and soul together? The tenants has been exploited for centuries, it is time for them to own the land they tilt. And that is the responsibility of our Chinese dominated government, to assist and expedite the transfer of ownership of the land in favor of the tenant.

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