Sumilao farmers to march not for land, but for Robredo
Nine years ago, farmers of the Higaonon tribe marched from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Manila for two months to protest their decade-long struggle to own their ancestral land. Now they are mobilizing farmers again. This time, to campaign for Leni Robredo.
Reminiscent of the 2007 march, a dozen of Sumilao farmers will hold a 3,750-kilometer caravan from Bukidnon to Quezon City from April 15 to May 7 to express their support for the Liberal Party vice presidential bet.
Dubbed the “Sumilao Farmers’ Express,” twelve farmers who took part in the 2007 protest will go on a cross-country trip, passing through the provinces of Cotabato, Davao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Tacloban, Legazpi, Naga and Lucena, with the last stop at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.
In a press conference on Wednesday at Club Filipino, the Laylayan Coalition, a group composed of farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous people, rural women and youth campaigning for Robredo, said the march-caravan would be a show of force among the supporters of the vice presidential aspirant.
“(The farmers) want to tell a story. They hope to introduce the broader public who Leni really is,” Soc Banzuela of Samahang Tsinelas told the media.
The Sumilao farmers were formerly the clients of Robredo as a volunteer lawyer for the non-government organization Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan).
Banzuela, who’s also the national coordinator of Pakisama (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka), said Robredo was instrumental in the fight of the farmers who eventually won the case and received 197 hectares of land.
“Hindi na sila nagugutom because of agrarian reform, and someone helped them in their struggle for their land and one of those figures–ang daming tulmulong–pero malapit na malapit sa kanila si Leni,” Banzuela said.
Leni and her late husband and former Interior Secretary Jesse, who was then the mayor of Naga City, played key roles when the historic march happened from October to December 2007.
Showing a video of the farmers’ stop in Naga City, Banzuela recalled how Mayor Jesse and Leni welcomed and marched with the farmers for six kilometers to show their support for the marginalized sector.
“This was how they got welcomed in Naga City. There was a marching band, a concert, food. It was led by Jesse and organized by Leni,” Banzuela said.
As the lawyer of the farmers, Leni initiated proposing a resolution of support for the Sumilao farmers which was later officially signed and issued by the city government of Naga.
“The resolution of support was the only one we got over the entire 63-day march… The farmers felt affirmed that they were correct, their struggle (was right),” he added. JE
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