Date: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 15:38:00 +0800
From: Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas <> (by way of
Subject: [asia-apec 988] Manila gov't. heap holiday horrors on peasants
Precedence: bulk

Christmas 1998—a season of torment for peasants

KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Features, 24 December 1998

ALLAN dela Cruz's hope for having meat on the table this Christmas was suddenly granted when angry farmworkers in Calumpit, Bulacan decided to plow 60 hectares of disputed farmland on Dec. 23 in defiance of legal restraints filed by real estate firms Sta. Lucia and IPM.

As a rented tractor struggled to cut down weeds that strangled the idle land after a year of legal delays, farm rats scampered in all directions and tried to escape. But Allan swatted them with a stick all day, netting about forty which weighed 3 kilos. He will make this into adobo (a Filipino favorite viand) but this is still not enough for the traditional noche buena (Christmas eve midnight dinner) for his family of six.

Confronting the security guards of the IPM firm, who rushed to investigate the cutting down of the barbed-wire fence for the tractor to pass through, Bernardo Cruz, spokesperson of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Bulakan (AMB or Alliance of Bulacan peasants) in Calumpit, explained: Even if there is a restraining order which could be a basis to charge us with illegal entry, we had to do this because two planting/harvesting seasons have overtaken about 100 farm workers in these villages.

Cruz said their troubles began when developers started buying ricefields in the villages of Balite, Sergio Bayan and Buguion without consulting the farmworkers who work on the land. The area is considered prime agricultural land as evidenced by its being serviced by the National Irrigation Administration since 1981. Administrative Order #20 prohibits its conversion into non-agricultural use.

Last year, the farmworkers lost to a third developer Roca Filipina, which succeeded in building low-cost housing over 40 hectares after the firm charged the farmworkers with illegal entry.

The evicted farmworkers tried to till other plots that are now also being claimed by Sta. Lucia and IPM. Only a December 1996 opinion by the national office of the Department of Agrarian Reform declaring the land qualified for land reform kept the two firms from starting with stonework.

According to residents, real estate agents prowl the villages and bully their way by dropping the name of Secretary of Defense Orlando Mercado, allegedly related to the Mercados of IPM. Cruz says that anytime now, they might be charged and jailed if they insist on planting rice after Christmas.

In Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental, the wheels of justice continue to grind exceedingly slow for the 18 peasants who were implicated in the November 1997 killing of Paul and Michael, sons of the local warlord Ricardo Quintos.

Six of them—Manolito Matricio, Ruben Balaguer, Gelito Bautista, Mario Tobias, Eduardo Hermoso and Josue Ungsod—have been arrested and are now detained in the Quezon City jail. KMP has been campaigning for their release and the dismissal of the case.

Of the six, Ungsod suffered the worst cruelty by the military/police. He was arrested without a warrant in Palua, Occ. Mindoro on Nov. 19 and taken to Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna on Nov. 29. He was later transferred to Quezon City Jail on Dec. 18. His co-accused said they were sure he was tortured and probably poisoned by his past jailers. He refuses food and drink offered by his five friends whom he does not recognize at the moment. At one time he was so paranoid, he drank his own urine instead of water being offered to him.

Doctors who examined the 31-year old Ungsod said he suffers from depression and schizopenic paranoia, most probably a traumatic reaction to physical and psychological torture during interrogation. Dr. Gene Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) recommended his transfer from the jail to a hospital to facilitate his recovery.

KMP chairman Rafael Mariano said these cases mirror the wretchedness of the people and the injustices of society similarly described in the novel Les Miserables. The Mindoro farmers were first charged with stealing their own mangoes, those in Bulacan for fighting for their right to plant for their own food. The US-Estrada regime is very much like the callous French aristocracy and the novel's antagonist Javert who for twenty years chased criminals accused of stealing a piece of bread.

Mariano explained that Estrada has similarly criminalized the peasants' struggle for genuine land reform and chose not to honor his own unilateral ceasefire and the basic spirit of Christmas. Eventually, his cruelty will only lead to millions more angry peasants and workers who will stage even more militant struggles for land, jobs, justice and freedom.