Sumilao updates: 9-11 February 2008

At St. Joseph School, the Sumilao farmers were met with drums and cheers from the high school and elementary students of the school. The forum started at 10:00 am. Rene Penas presented the struggle of the Sumilao farmers and the current challenges they are facing. The Correspondents' documentary on their 'Walk for Sumilao Land, Walk for Justice' campaign was shown to give a brief review and background of the farmers' struggle.

During the open forum, the Sumilao farmers clarified to the students that their struggle is not yet finished. He said that the decision of Malacanang issued on 18 December 2007, which revoked the conversion order, did not put an end to their struggle. On the other hand, the students entertained the farmers with a drum and bugle group show down, and a community dance headed by the campus ministry animators.

The students of St. Joseph expressed their support to the Sumilao farmers and are willing to go with them in case they will stage a bigger mobilization in the coming days. Like the other schools, St. Joseph also has a bulletin board specially allocated for the reading materials and updates of the Sumilao farmers' case.

COMELEC Commissioner Sarmiento was also present at the forum. He had a brief talk with the farmers after the forum expressing that he firmly believes in their cause even ten years ago when they staged a 28 day hunger strike. He gave donation to the farmers but more importantly his moral support to the former. At 3 pm, the Sumilao farmers played basketball with the fourth year students of St. Joseph. Though some of the farmers are older and not seasoned, they managed to get 12 points against the 15 points in a 20 minute game.

The farmers stayed in the school for the night. Mr. Noel Misamis of the CCF (Center for Catholic Formation) Outreach Program Coordinator of the school and Mr. Joseph Tambio (of the Campus Ministry) facilitated the accommodation of the farmers. It was also in St. Joseph that the farmers had a meeting with the support groups from 2:00 – 4:00 am of February 10 (Saturday), the birthday of Joseph Sumintan (one of the Sumilao farmers). On the occasion of his birthday, Joseph wished that their case will be decided the soonest time possible.

At 11 am of the same day, the student volunteers of St. Benilde-La Salle visited and talked to the the farmers. To facilitate their interaction, the students were divided into three groups. Their visit ended with a community lunch prepared by the students of St. Joseph and St. Benilde.

Yesterday (February 10), the Sumilao farmers attended 6 masses at the Sto. Nino Church located just beside St. Joseph School. In each mass, the farmers were given time to explain their case to the parishioners. They also took the opportunity to appeal for the support of the people especially in their future plan of engaging in greater and broader mobilization.

Today (February 11), Rene Penas together with other representatives of partner peoples' organizations of the Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG), present HB Bill 1257 that seeks for the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beyond 2008. The other farmers left St. Joseph's school and walked towards Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (of the SSPS Sisters), where they attended a mass and was given time to present their case and the plea for support. They then proceeded to Don Bosco School at Sta. Mesa, Manila where the Salesian Sisters welcomed them with a short but inspiring para-liturgy. Meanwhile, Bajekjek and Nato were sent to Adamson University, together with Dudj (of the OSCI), spoke before the students of said university.

— Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (BALAOD Mindanaw)Door 3 Balay Mindanaw SIAD Peace Center53A 12th St., zone II, Upper Bulua9000 Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines
+63 8822 738794
+63 8822 738794 (telefax)