Bukidnon, Agusan, Surigao farmers to picket Malacanang

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 February) — Farmers from different towns of Bukidnon gathered  here Saturday for a send-off mass before sailing to Manila to ask President Benigno Simeon Aquino not to terminate but complete land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer).

At least 100 members of Alyansa Bukidnon heard mass at Kiosko Kagawasan, D.V. Soria, celebrated by Fr. Nathaniel Lerio of the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, who told the farmers to sustain their “righteous demand for land rights.”

“United we can pressure government to give in to our demands. I believe this government is still a Christian government so they should have conscience for the oppressed and the poor,” Fr. Lerio said.

Task Force Mapalad-Bukidnon coordinator Joseph Coles said 15 of their members from Bukidnon and another 15 members from Agusan and Surigao provinces will sail to Manila for a massive protest action in front of Malacañang on Monday.

“Most of our members are already in Manila for the protest action at the door steps of Malacañang on Monday,” Coles said.

Bannering streamers: “CARPer until 2014: Completion not Termination,” the farmers marched from D.V. Soria to Puntod Wharf after the mass.

Fr. Lerio said farmers should also strengthen their organizations, alliances and communities “so that the forces of evil and the powerful could not easily topple their ranks.”

“There are vast tracts of land in the region that could be distributed to those that toil the land but this government lacks the political will to do it,” he said.

“Real help should be given to those that cannot give something back in return. The help given by the rich to those who could give back is not really help but a bribe,” said Fr. Lerio.

In an interview after the mass, Alyansa Bukidnon chair Oscar Maniego claimed the ground personnel of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR 10) have been jerking them around even before CARPer was signed in 2009.

“Puro na lang graft and corruption inaatupag ni Presidente Aquino. Sana naman pakinggan din niya ang hinaing naming magsasaka, lalo na itong sobrang bagal ng implementasyon ng CARPer,” (President Aquino only focuses on graft and corruption. We hope he will listen to the farmers’ pleas),  said Maniego.

Among their demands, he said, are the “fast-tracking of the valuation of the 331-hectare Fortich farm in Valencia City, Bukidnon which has already been covered by CARP; the revocation of the DAR-issued CARP exemption order of the other 847-hectare Fortich farm and for President Aquino  to act on the human rights violations committed by the goons of the landlords in the province.”

Maniego cited the case of one of their members, Welcie Garcia “who was gunned down by alleged goons at the Villalon Ranch in Maramag town, Bukidnon in August last year.”

“In 2011, DAR had a lousy performance. They failed to accomplish even at least 50 per cent of its annual target of land distribution,” he said. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)