DAYS 21, 22, 23: Walk for Sumilao Land, Walk for Justice updates

During the mini-concert, alternative artists gathered and rendered songs primarily dedicated to the Sumilao Farmers.  Bayang Barrios, Noel Cabangon, Chikoy Pura, Purple Chicken and Bandang Shirley came and through their songs, popularized the struggle of the Sumilao Farmers.  

Indeed, in whatever forms and means, those who share and understand the real situation of the country's agrarian reform particularly the plights of the landless farmers, would do something in solidarity with the real victims of injustices happening across the country.

31 October 2007

"We believe that this long march now will go beyond the attainment of justice and truth this world offers, it will eventually be, for you and for all of us, an experience with the God of Justice and Truth."   These were the words and message of support uttered by Bishop Jose. S. Palma, Archbishop of Palo, when he delivered a mass in Redemptorist Church in Tacloban City at 7:30AM yesterday.

The mass was conducted to uplift the spiritual life of the Sumilao Farmers.  Together with BRAMO-KAMAO and the Redemptorist Youth, they all gathered and heard the word of God.

After the mass, the Sumilao Farmers likewise had their own reflection session.  They revisited and reviewed the very reason why are they doing the long march.  At the end of the session, the farmers reaffirmed their commitment in fighting for justice and truth.   They all, once again determined to bring their message to Malacanang:

      .             Restore the Dignity of the Sumilao Farmers!;

      .             Revoke the Conversion Order!;

      .             Reclaim the Land!;

      .             Reform and Extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program!; and

      .             Recognize the Need for a National Land Use law!

Meanwhile, an appeal from Senator Gringo Honasan came to the knowledge of the Sumilao Farmers.  Gringo Honasan shares the idea that the Sumilao Farmers do not deserve this sacrifice.  He asked the marchers to stop walking and proceed to his office for a dialogue between him and the farmers.   He said, "I promise you that if this is a cause worth fighting for, as I have done for the last 20 years of my life, I will stake my reputation, my honor, my family.   If I am convinced inside and outside the Senate, I will fight for them."

The Sumilao Farmers appreciated the gesture expressed by the honorable senator.  They admitted that this message from a national public figure and leader somehow did boost their morale.  That their cries are now heard.   After 21 days of walking, this was the first time a senator bothered to know the plight of the marchers.  Again, the Sumilao Farmers were grateful to the message given by Senator Honasan.

Nonetheless, the farmers decided to continue their march until genuine justice and truth is served.   Ten years ago, the then President Fidel Ramos did almost the same gesture.  He even came up with the so called "Win-Win Solution".   That out of the 144-hectare disputed land, 100 hectares will be given to the farmers.  But ten years after, the land is still in the hands of a big landowner, the San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI).   The Sumilao Farmers are sick and tired of false hope.  Though they all believe with the sincerity of Senator Honasan, they will not rest until the 144-hectare land is distributed to them.   No more, no less.

Revisiting the Sumilao Land:

Sangguniang Bayan   Resolution No. 24 is Void.

Even assuming that the Local Government Unit (LGU) can reclassify the 144-hectare prime agricultural land to agro-industrial, still, Resolution No. 24 substantially failed to comply with the requirements embodied in the law.  The Local Government Code (LDC) requires a municipal ordinance, not merely a resolution, for a valid reclassification of agricultural lands.   An ordinance differs from a resolution in that it has to pass through three readings before the Sangguniang Bayan, and that the same is subject to the veto power of the local chief executive and review by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

In addition, Memorandum Circular No. 54 mandates that before a reclassification of agricultural lands can be had, the municipality must have a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) reviewed and approved in accordance with Executive Order 72, Series of 1993.  No CLUP was ever made by the LGU of Sumilao when it passed the said resolution.  Hence, Resolution No. 24 has no legal effect as the same suffers from inherent and procedural defects.

The Fellowship of the 144-hectare land in Sumilao

To reiterate those who were and still are supporting the struggle of the Sumilao Farmers particularly in the entire Visayas leg, the marchers are grateful to:

·         KAISAHAN particularly Noel and Jane for coordinating the whole Visayas leg;

·         DAR Regional Director Homer, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Toto and other DAR Visayas personnel for supporting the march;


·         Priests, Dioceses, SACs, BECs and Parishes in providing the food and accommodation needs of the Sumilao Farmers;

·         The PNP, Military and other law enforcement agents for the assistance in securing the smooth flow of the march; and

·         Those unnamed groups and individuals for whatever support they provided and still providing especially those by-standers and motorists.

Today and Tomorrow

1 November 2007, All Saints Day, the Sumilao Farmers are currently negotiating the longest bridge in the Philippines, the San Juanico Bridge, as they head off to the Municipality of Sta. Rita.  They will conduct a turn-over event at the bridge.  Tomorrow, 2 November 2007, there will be yet another 33 kilometers of journey from the Municipality of Sta. Rita to Hinabangan.

Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (BALAOD Mindanaw)

Door 3 Balay Mindanaw SIAD Peace Center

53A 12th St., zone II, Upper Bulua

9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

+63 8822 738794

+63 8822 738794 (telefax)