P-Noy’s CARP/ER Legacy: Rural unrest, unfinished agrarian reform, land grabbing and landlord impunity— multisectoral groups

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focusweb.org photo

June 9, Quezon City – On the eve of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s 27th anniversary, around 450 farmers, women, labor, youth, and agrarian reform activists converged at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to collectively exact accountability from the Aquino administration mangling of the nationwide agrarian reform program. With chants loud and signs high, protesters from the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA), Kaisahan ng Maliliit na Magsasaka (KMM), KATARUNGAN, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP), PARAGOS-Pilipinas, Pambansang Kongreso ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Alliance of Progressive Labor-SENTRO, World March of Women, Ateneans for Agrarian Reform Movement (AFARM), Foodfirst Information and Action Network-Philippines (FIAN), Laban ng mga Iskolar para sa Repormang Agraryo (UP LIKHA), Peoples’ Development Institute, and Focus on the Global South ensured that their critical messages were heard outside the DAR office:

“TULOY ANG LABAN SA REPORMANG AGRARYO, KAHIT PINALPAK NG GOBYERNO!”

“PALAWAKIN ANG MGA LABAN PARA SA HUSTISYA SA LUPA!”

“KAUNLARAN NG SAKA!” “REPORMANG AGRARYO, LABAN NG BAYAN!”

Wearing white as if in a funeral, the group symbolically padlocked the inutile Department of Agrarian Reform while holding a program in front of it. Farmers from Porac and Mabalacat, Pampanga, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, and Hacienda Matias, Quezon –considered as agrarian hotspots in the country— lamented the systematic harassments, violations of human rights, and extrajudicial killings of farmers fighting for their lands in the face of the government’s failure to protect the farmers’ rights. With the Philippines’ anti-agriculture and anti-small farm development policies, landlords, agribusiness and corporations in collusion with corrupt DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies’ officials exploited the loopholes in CARP/ER to serve the formers’ interests.

According to the groups, incidences of land grabbing, landlord impunity, and circumventions of the law marked the 27 years of existence of CARP/ER. Wherever and whenever CARP worked, it was because of the incremental efforts, critical engagement and rights-claiming of farmer groups from below in tandem with support from other sectors from above to effectively implement the program, the protestors argued.

The groups also condemn the deliberate counter-reform tactics of the Visayan bloc, a group of landlords at the House of Representatives, that inserted anti-farmer and anti-agrarian reform provisions in House Bill 4296, which aims to extend the issuance of notices of coverage or NOCs, the initiatory step for the land acquisition and distribution process. Such provisions include exemptions of rainfed or non-irrigable lands close to national highways, increasing the retention limits for landlords and their heirs, and changing the reckoning date for retention rights of legal heirs of deceased landowners over aggregate individual landholdings from June 10, 1988 to January 1, 2015 instead.

Clearly, the landed elites in the House of Representatives are protecting their own interests—another roadblock in the full implementation of CARP. Another barrier to rural development. Another obstruction of social justice.

Enough is enough!

The future of CARP/ER appears grim: substantial headway towards the full completion of the Philippine agrarian reform program has yet to take place, five years after it was extended and reformed by the CARPER Act. This fact has been firmly borne out by how the CARP record of the Aquino government’s DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies has remained at dismal and depressing levels. That reality, as has been the outgrowth of a sustained neglect and incompetence of the current administration, an indecisive and technicality-oriented DAR leadership, an inhospitable neoliberal policy environment, and a President who cannot go beyond his class interests.

But the groups vowed to continue and intensify the fight for agrarian reform and social justice.

The movement for agrarian reform and rural development will continue to grow – as farmers, workers, women, and the youth look for other alternative avenues in the fight for equity and justice. Among them include:

  • a CARPER Audit that would assess the performance of DAR and other CARP-implementing agencies in the last five years and would validate it on the ground
  • sustained struggles to secure of land tenure for small, landless farmers, farmworkers and rural women amid land grabbing, cancellation of land titles or Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), illegal reclassification and land use conversions;
  • promotion of alternative models of agricultural production for small farmers and food producers, of food sovereignty and sustainability of the environment;
  • protection of the rights of workers in the food industry, commercial farms, and plantations;
  • campaigns for social protection, rural development, and rural industrialization; and
  • national youth alliance for agrarian reform and rural development and “balik-farm programs”.

The groups stressed that defending and protecting agricultural lands will not only secure the land rights and lives of farmers and food producers, it will secure the nation’s food needs. Agrarian reform is everyone’s fight.

Citra Mina under intensifying global scrutiny!

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Citra Mina workers on Labor Day in General Santos City May 1, 2015

Manila – The IUF Asia Pacific, the regional organization of the food workers’ international, today announced that one of the biggest fisheries companies in Japan that also imports tuna from General Santos has launched an investigation into the human rights violations of Citra Mina.

This does not auger well for the tuna industry in General Santos City. It becomes critical for the industry stakeholders that workers’ rights are upheld.

This development comes at a time that the Director General of Trade of the European Commission is also sending a trade delegation to the Philippines from 29 June to 3 July 2015 to monitor the country’s implementation of its commitments under the EU GSP Plus programme. The delegation is set to visit General Santos City and to meet with SENTRO, one of IUF’s affiliates in the Philippines that has been helping Citra Mina workers fight for their rights.

The Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission is in charge of implementing the common trade policy of the European Union.

“The potential damage to the reputation of the tuna industry in the Philippines must not be underestimated”, Dr. Hidayat Greenfield, regional Secretary of the IUF Asia Pacific said. “All this because Citra Mina will not reinstate workers unfairly dismissed for forming a union. It is a very big mistake that could cost the tuna industry of General Santos and ultimately the people of General Santos,” he added.

“What we need is for Citra Mina to do the right thing by reinstating the workers and recognize the union. That would set us on a firm course for a sustainable tuna industry that restores the reputation of General Santos. ” Dr. Greenfield said.

Citra Mina is the 2nd largest seafood exporter in the Philippines. It has been under increasing pressure after the IUF launched a global campaign last June 2014 in support of the call for justice for the workers of Citra Mina. The workers are being organized by SENTRO.

IPs reiterate call for full inclusion of their rights in the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Groups express solidarity to the cause of the Non-Moro indigenous peoples for full inclusion of their rights in the BBL at a ritual-action in front of the House of Representatives in Quezon City. ​10 May 2015. Photo by Joseph Purugganan

Groups express solidarity to the cause of the Non-Moro indigenous peoples for full inclusion of their rights
in the BBL at a ritual-action in front of the House of Representatives in Quezon City. ​10 May 2015.
Photo by Joseph Purugganan

REITERATING THE CALL FOR THE FULL INCLUSION OF NON-MORO IP RIGHTS IN THE BBL

We are organizations from different sectors and advocacies that have been supportive of the peace process between the GPH-MILF. We share the dream of genuine peace in Mindanao that would be enjoyed by all the peoples in the region.

We recognize that the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a critical step towards achieving peace. This is why we have engaged the members of the Congress by participating as resource persons in the hearings, submitted position papers, and have had discussions on the critical points that would make the draft BBL truly inclusive and an instrument of correcting historical injustices in the region. We have pushed for the full inclusion of Indigenous peoples’ Rights in the BBL.

The amendment approved by the Adhoc committee of the House of Representatives on the transfer of Ancestral Domains/Ancestral Lands of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples from exclusive power to concurrent power is a positive development that we recognize. This amendment articulates the recognition of “their ancestral domains and their rights thereto.” Further it states that “The Bangsamoro Government and the National Government shall cooperate and coordinate through existing national laws such as Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the “Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997,” to create policies for the identification, delineation and titling of ancestral domains.” (Sec. 2, Article V)

We agree, however, with the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur of Indigenous Peoples Rights Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, that the House Bill 4994 and its amended version “fall short in meeting the minimum international standards contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) for the survival, dignity, and well being of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. It also diminishes some of the rights of indigenous peoples contained in IPRA.”

There are contradictory provisions in the amended version approved by the House Adhoc Committee that could seriously undermine the rights of Non-Moro indigenous peoples. While Article V, Section 2 has been amended making the creation of policies on ancestral domains part of the concurrent powers shared by both the National Government and the Bangsamoro Government, Section 3 of Article V on Exclusive powers maintains that the Bangsamoro Government shall exercise exclusive powers on Ancestral domain and Natural Resources.

Furthermore, there are provisions in the proposed BBL and retained in the version approved in the Adhoc version that effectively repeals some IPRA provisions. For example the provision in Article V Section 4 (other Exclusive Powers) gives the Bangsamoro Government exclusive powers “to recognize, constructive or traditional possession of lands and resources by indigenous cultural communities subject to judicial affirmation.” The premise of judicial affirmation is that all lands are public lands. This effectively contradicts the recognition that some domains are ancestral hence private but collectively-owned, which is the basis for the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles or CADT.

At the heart of the demand for full recognition of IP rights is the identity of the non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. For without identity, it is as if their entire being is erased. And it is from a people’s identity that rights emanate from – their right to ancestral domain, cultural integrity, governance and justice system.

However, the definition of Bangsamoro People in Article II diminishes the distinct identity of the non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, by subsuming all the “natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu” and their “Spouses and their descendants” as Bangsamoro. This clearly denies them their collective identity. Section 2 of the same article, Freedom of Choice, says that “other indigenous peoples” can choose their identity. But as the Lumad leaders say, being Teduray, or Lambangian, or Erumanen Manuvu, is not a matter of choice. You are born with your identity. Rep. Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) has a clear definition of who the Indigenous Peoples are.

Mohagher Iqbal’s statements that the MILF does not “accept in principle” the inclusion of IPRA in the BBL because it is “nowhere to be found” in any agreement signed between the MILF and the Philippine government exposed the failure of the GPH panel and the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) to defend Non-Moro indigenous peoples rights. The government has effectively sold out IP rights even at the onset of the peace negotiations. This is despite years of committed engagement by the lumads and support groups with the peace panel for the inclusion of non-Moro Indigenous Peoples rights in the BBL.

The Indigenous Peoples have been betrayed by the Aquino government. The deliberate non-inclusion of the non-Moro IP rights in the draft BBL version from the peace panel is a clear act of discrimination.

We urge the members of the House of Congress and the Senate to not let historical, cultural and social justice elude the non-Moro Indigenous Peoples once again. As legislators tasked to enact this historic law, you hold the key for this new chapter in Philippine history to progress, and the responsibility to correct historical injustices. We demand careful and thorough deliberation of the draft BBL. The benefits and consequences of this law go beyond this generation.

We appeal for public support in this endeavor to uphold the rights of our non-Moro IP brothers and sisters.

There will be no peace and justice in Mindanao without the full recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Bagong Kamalayan
Bataris Formation Center
Bayay Sibuyanon
Buklod Kababaihan
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Centro Saka, Inc. (CSI)
Concerned Citizens of Sta Cruz, Zambales (CCOS)
CLAIM (Concerned Lalloqueños Against Illegal Mining)
CONZARRD
Ecological Society of the Philippines
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
Focus on the Global South
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)
Kaagapay OFW Resource and Service Center, Inc
KAMMAZS
KASAMMAKA
KILOS KA-Lanao (lanao del norte)
Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (KILOS Ka-MagCot)
Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates ( iligan city)
Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN)
Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)
Liga ng Makabagong Kabataan- Ranaw
Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
LMK-ZamPen
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Phil. Human Rights Information Center (PHILRIGHTS)
MAPALAD KA
Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM)
Mindanao Tri-People Women Forum
Minadanao Tri-Women Resource Center (MTWRC)
Nagkahiusang Mag-uumang Organiko sa Agusan del Sur
National Confederation of Labor (NCL)
Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
Peace Women Partners
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Social Action Center-Diocese of Marbel
Stop the War Coalition-Philippines
Sumpay Mindanao
Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education)
Tri-People’s Organization Against Disasters (TRIPOD) Foundation
World March of Women – Pilipinas (WMW)
WomanHealth Philippines

Individual endorsers:

Professor Roland Simbulan of UP Manila
Hansley Juliano, Lecturer, Ateneo de Manila University
Dr. Helen Mendoza, University of the Philippines Diliman (retired faculty)
Ms. Aida F, Santos-Maranan, Executive Director, WEDPRO
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Manila
Rev. Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ.

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Sentro chides gov’t for flip-flopping on helping ‘boat people’

Rohingya migrants in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015.     AFP PHOTO / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT

Rohingya migrants in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Christophe ARCHAMBAULT

IN A MATTER of days if not hours, the Aquino government keeps on changing its stand or remains unsure on whether to give refuge to the “boat people” – from Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh who are both escaping from religious persecution and victims of human trafficking – if their “floating coffin” boats reach the Philippine shores.

Echoing the frantic appeals of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa urged Aquino to categorically declare that the country would not turn away the “boat people” or push their boats back to sea just like what Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia mercilessly did.

Last Sunday, May 17, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. was quoted as saying that the country, like the three other Asean countries, would “deny admission” to the “boat people” if they are “undocumented” or “don’t have travel documents.”

“Coloma’s statement, which reflects Malacañang’s view, is totally absurd and heartless and devoid of logic,” Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said, adding that “persons fleeing from grave and immediate danger and suffering will think first of their safety rather than bringing travel documents. They are escaping, not going to a vacation.”

However, on Monday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima assured that the country will extend shelter to the “boat people” as the Philippines is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as well as the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

In an apparent correction to Coloma’s bungling, De Lima emphatically clarified that “it’s not accurate that we will not help them just because they are undocumented. Their situation is different and they should be treated differently.”

De Lima also recalled the country’s opening its doors to asylum seekers or refugees or externally displaced persons (EDPs) like the Jewish people from Europe during World War II and the famous “boat people” from Vietnam in the 1970s.

But after only one day, Coloma was again double talking when asked once more if the country would take in the fleeing refugees and migrants: “It is inappropriate to engage in speculation … We will do what is needed and deal with concrete situations as these actually materialize.”

The ambiguity and tentativeness of Coloma – one of President Aquino’s spokespersons – is shared by the Department of Foreign Affairs, when it stated that while it believes in De Lima’s position, the country will have to “balance (its) commitments” to the international conventions “with our interests, economy and security.”

“It’s actually a ‘diplomatese’ or a diplomat’s mumbo jumbo of ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘come what may,’” Mata retorted.

Meanwhile, the IOM and the UN agencies warned that the plight of the “boat people” is an actual and worsening humanitarian crisis, and reiterated their appeals to Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, to organize sea search and rescues and stop preventing the thousands of refugees and migrants from landing on their shores.

“People (are) stuck in the high seas, some of them are already lost, some about to be lost. This is a very serious matter, (a) regional crisis,” Bernard Kerblat, UNHCR representative to the Philippines, was reported saying.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who are ethnic and religious minority in Burma, have fled violence, discrimination and abject poverty from their “adopted” homeland and from squalid and pathetic refugee camps on both sides of the Burmese-Bangladeshi border. They soon fell prey to human traffickers in nearby Thailand, where because of the recent clampdown in people-smuggling there, offered (with fees, of course) the refugees with dilapidated boats to go to Malaysia or Indonesia. However, the Rohingya people were shooed away outright or after being given some provisions by the authorities. They were later abandoned by the boat crew and smugglers, leaving the jam-packed boats adrift on the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits.

Save for a few hundreds who have reached land and relative safely, such as those welcomed by the generous people in Aceh, a special region in Indonesia – “returning” the goodwill they received from the world following the devastating tsunami in December 2004 – thousands, many are hungry and sick, are still in their boats floating aimlessly and dangerously in Southeast Asian seas.