Fighting for farmers’ rights is personal – VP Robredo

Share this story
Vice President Leni Robredo talks to farmers in Sumilao, Bukidnon on Wednesday, 23 February 2022. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

SUMILAO, Bukidnon (MindaNews / 24 February) – Waxing sentimental but holding off emotions, Vice President Leni Robredo described her involvement in the struggle for the recognition of farmers’ rights and welfare as something personal.

Speaking in Filipino before members of Panaw Multi-Purpose Cooperative (originally called the Mapalad farmers) on Wednesday, Robredo recalled that two lawyers from Saligan, an NGO handling agrarian cases where she had worked before joining politics, were among those who died in the Cebu Pacific plane crash on Feb. 2, 1998.

“Reality is we lost two lawyers in the Cebu Pacific plane crash on February 2, 1997 – Atty. Bobby Gana, who headed Saligan, and Atty. Kaloy Ollado. They were supposed to go to your place.

“So, for us this is a very personal fight because lives were sacrificed to ensure that you got your rights back,” Robredo, who is running for president in the May 9 elections, said.

“So, many people were invested in you, Panaw Sumilao. I’m hoping that others like you would also get what is rightfully theirs,” she added.

“Whenever I’m here [the things we fight for] become so personal because, for example, when I see the children…Bebing’s child, when you marched in 2016, was still a baby. That child is my gauge of how long we have been in this together,” she said.

Robredo also recounted her first encounter with the Mapalad farmers, when they marched from this town to Malacanang Palace from Oct. 10 to Dec. 10 in 2007.

“I remember when I first knew you personally, when you marched to Malacanang and we met you in Naga (City) together with my husband,” she said.

“Am I right? I think Bajekjek (referring to Panaw MPC chair Elgine Orquillas) was the youngest among the marchers at the time. You have companions who are no longer here anymore,” she reminisced.

“It has been a long journey, and I’m proud of you. Bajekjek not only speaks Tagalog well, but you can feel that everybody has become empowered by being given the chance to lead and carry on the fight, not just following orders but being in the middle of it,” she said.

But Robredo clarified that she wasn’t directly involved in the Mapalad case because she belonged to the Bicol branch of Saligan. “Our head office was really the one which represented us in the case.”

The vice president also cited that Panaw’s assets have now reached 37 million pesos saying it’s a source of pride to say that the group has achieved it with almost nothing at the start.

“But my promise to you is this: We shall continue to fight for the rights and livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk. We have seen that with little help you have improved your condition twice. We couldn’t say that our economy has improved if there are still people who are left in the margins,” she added.

Robredo also recalled a near misadventure during one of her visits in Sumilao eliciting laughter from her audience, which included Sumilao Mayor Antonio Villo, Talakag Mayor Vergito Factura, and Bukidnon First District Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba.

“If you recall, you made me ride a carabao and it went wild. That’s why when I entered here I asked Bajekjek, ‘Will you make me ride a carabao again?’ I was relieved when Bajekjek told me I’d just walk.

“I was with (Dinagat Islands) Gov. Kaka Bag-ao and the carabao went wild, so they (the farmers) chased us all the way to the corn field. The carabao only stopped upon reaching a slope. All of them panicked,” she said. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)

Your perspective matters! Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We welcome diverse viewpoints and encourage respectful discussions. Don't hesitate to share your ideas or engage with others.
The MindaNews Podcast
-- ad here--