‘P-Noy killed land reform program’
LUCENA CITY—Reaching Metro Manila after an eight-day, 122-kilometer march, a group of farmers from Quezon province staged a protest camp in front of the offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City to assail what they said was the Aquino administration’s failure to fully implement land reform.
“President Aquino killed the government land reform program,” said Jansepth Geronimo, spokesperson of the Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), on Thursday.
He said farmers nationwide had long been demanding genuine land reform but ignored by Malacañang.
“[Mr. Aquino’s] heart really belongs to his fellow hacenderos and not to the poor farmers,” Geronimo said.
He also assailed the five presidential candidates for supposedly ignoring problems faced by millions of Filipino farmers.
“They are all busy throwing mud at each other,” he said. “They don’t seem to understand that most tillers are now sick and dying due to government negligence and apathy,” he said.
On April 12, at least 200 farmers from Quezon started the 122-km walk from Sariaya town to Metro Manila to appeal to the Supreme Court to order the full implementation of the agrarian reform program in the Bondoc Peninsula area and stop the revocation of land titles already given by the government to Sariaya farmers as part of land reform.
The marchers also appealed to the high court to return the multibillion-peso levy forcibly collected from coconut farmers by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
At least 100 farmers were left behind to hold the protest camp in Quezon City on Tuesday. The rest, most of them ill or exhausted after a week of marching, had gone home.
Maribel Luzara, head of the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula, said farmers were being harassed by workers of an estate in San Francisco town.
The group is fighting a legal battle to compel the DAR to fully enforce land reform and landowners to heed the law.
“The land titles in the entire estate are no longer in the name of the landowners,” said Luzara.
“These have been registered in the name of the government. Why are the former landowners still controlling the hacienda?” Luzara added.
She said farmers would meet with representatives of the DAR and DENR to discuss the case.
Geronimo assailed other farmers’ groups for allowing themselves to be used as “pawns” by politicians in their campaign instead of continuing the fight for genuine land reform, return of coconut levy funds and ensuring food security for all Filipinos.
He was referring to farmers from Bukidnon province who started a 3,750-km caravan from Bukidnon to Quezon City from April 15 to May 7 to express support for Liberal Party vice presidential candidate and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.
In 2007, farmers of the Higaonon tribe marched from Sumilao town in Bukidnon to Metro Manila for two months to protest their struggle to own their ancestral land. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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