MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of farmers, human rights defenders, and peace advocates trooped to Mendiola on Friday, March 31, to condemn killings of farmers under the Duterte administration.
The Friday protest came on the eve of the first anniversary of the Kidapawan clash between police and farmers that injured about 50 people and left 3 people dead in April 2016.
A group of farmers from Southern Mindanao also camped outside the central office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), seeking justice for the killings of farmers and land rights defenders. (READ: North Cotabato farmers decry killings, harassment over land dispute)
They traveled for 3 days from Mindanao to Quezon City to raise their issues and demands before the government.
"Since June last year, 16 farmers, Lumad, and land rights defenders have already been killed. They were all active in defending their lands from the incursion of big mining corporations, plantations and land grabbers and the campaign to stop militarization in their communities," Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao Region chair Pedro Arnado said in a statement.
On March 27, there were separate incidents of killings involving 3 farmers from Laak, Compostela Valley who were on their way to Manila: Cora Molave Lina, and couple Arman and Arlyn Alcominar.
"The government's declaration of all-out war against the left and their so-called Development Support and Security Plan or Oplan Kapayapaan – a rehash of Aquino's fascist counter-insurgency program – will not solve the civil war in the country. Instead, it has targeted civilians and activists who were active in defending their rights," Arnado said.
The group said the "ongoing armed conflict" will end only when the "root causes of landlessness, poverty, and social injustices" have been addressed.
They also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to pull out military troops from communities, to "work hard with the National Democractic Front of the Philippines on the negotiating table," and to pursue genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.
Anakpawis Partylist Representative Ariel Casilao, together with Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and other DAR officials met the farmers from Southern Mindanao to discuss issues of agrarian reform beneficiaries. – Rappler.com