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Farmers stage Valentine protest for land reform

Text, photos and video by VINCENT GO
THIRTY-ONE farmers affiliated with the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad staged a lightning rally outside the gates of the Malacañang Palace complex to denounce the slow pace of implementation of agrarian reform.

Feb 15, 2012

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Text, photos and video by VINCENT GO

THIRTY-ONE farmers affiliated with the peasant federation Task Force Mapalad staged a lightning rally outside the gates of the Malacañang Palace complex to denounce the slow pace of implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) under the Aquino Administration.

The farmers travelled all the way from Bukidnon, Davao, Batangas and Negros and had been camped out in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), when they decided to march to Malacañang.

They snuck past security guards and several Presidential Security Group personnel when they brought out their heart shaped placards with the message “P-Noy where is your heart for agrarian reform,” “CARPER completion not termination” and “Fighting corruption is good, but don’t forget poverty alleviation.”

According to Negros Occidental farmer-leader Jose Rodito Angeles, all they wanted was a chance to meet President Benigno Aquino III so he could hear their problems regarding the slow pace of agrarian reform.

To drive home his point, Angeles said he started fighting for land rights about 20 years ago, when he still had a full set of teeth. Now that he has lost almost every single tooth, he has yet to see the DAR fulfill its mandate on agrarian reform in Negros Occidental.

“We are no longer afraid of being imprisoned or hurt during our protest, but we are afraid of the hunger that our families will face if CARPER will not be implemented,” TFM-Negros President Alberto Jayme said. “We are determined to be heard and we will do whatever it takes and even go on a hunger strike if necessary.”

On their way to Manila, the farmers endured marching under the scorching heat of the sun, as well as several days of rain, taking refuge in town plazas, covered basketball courts and churches along the way before reaching their destination, the DAR central office.

In an interview after officiating a mass for the farmers camped outside the DAR last Saturday, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, “The Aquino Administration’s performance on land reform is one of the worst and a pity that it could have been the glory of his administration to finish the program but now it seems that he had to be blamed for not finishing the program.”

About 15 minutes after arriving at the gates of the palace complex, security personnel swooped down on the protesting farmers and bodily manhandled them, packing 29 of the 31 farmers into a police pick-up van like sardines.

They were brought to the Manila Police District headquarters along U.N. Avenue in Manila on Tuesday, February 14, 2012, Valentine’s Day.

CARPER will expire in 2014, but with over 1 million hectares to be distributed, the performance of DAR in implementing the program is only at a dismal 41 percent accomplishment in the year 2011.

Farmers stage a lightning rally outside Malacanang Palace to press speedy implementation of the agrarian reform law.

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