[News] Militant Farmers, Peasants Fight to Bury Filipino Feudalism With 'Occupy' Movement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 27 11:46:43 EDT 2017


  Militant Farmers, Peasants Fight to Bury Filipino Feudalism With
  'Occupy' Movement

April 26, 2017

In a bid to reassert their right to rural lands, farm workers and 
peasants in the Philippines have directly seized and occupied property 
claimed by one of the archipelago's largest banks and main oligarch 
families, the Aquino clan. The move is an escalation of a long campaign 
to dismantle the unjust system of feudalism and landlord rule inherited 
from the period of Spanish colonialism.

Gathered in the hundreds and carrying signs with slogans such as, "Land 
to the Tillers, Not to Their Killers," members and supporters of the 
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas — a militant mass movement of small 
farmers, landless peasants, farm workers, rural youth and women — 
converged on a walled-off section of Hacienda Luisita, a massive sugar 
plantation in the Tarlac province controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino 
political dynasty..

As hundreds of police and private security guards looked on, 700 farmers 
took turns destroying a concrete wall enclosing large tracts of land 
that were illegally sold to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. 
Eventually, a farm tractor was brought in to pull sections of the wall 
down. While the farmers dispersed that afternoon, they swore to return 
and undertake the collective cultivation of the land.

For the farmers, the walled-off enclosure represents the broken promise 
of land reform that the Philippine rural poor have been fighting for 
decades to win in the face of illegal and semi-legal methods of 
dispossession and open robbery by ruling elite families.

“Kadamay expresses its full support for the #OccupyLuisita movement as 
it echoes our own call for the government to own up to its sins and 
finally begin to give to people what is due them,” Kadamay chair Gloria 
Arellano said, noting that the land remains abandoned “simply because 
the landlords and the government hold on to their spoils rather than 
fulfill their duties to the people. Just like the idle housing units, 
the ruling class would rather see homes and land go unused rather than 
be owned or made productive by the broad masses of the Filipino people.”

The mass action, given the hashtag #OccupyLuisita by the peasant 
movement, recalled the recent successful takeover and redistribution 
of government housing undertaken by allied urban group Kadamay in 
Bulacan province, called #OccupyBulacan.

The destruction of the wall and reclamation of the land marks the next 
step in a renewed nationwide campaign aimed at genuine land reform, 
including the free distribution of land and equipment.

“We are taking back what is ours. We are taking back control of the 
lands that the Cojuangco-Aquinos have illegally usurped for more than 
half a century,” said Renato Mendoza, secretary general of the Peasant 
Alliance of Hacienda Luisita, in a statement by KMP.

The hacienda system continues to linger in the Philippines as a remnant 
of Spanish colonial rule, where families with strong connections to 
international capitalist markets and overseas interests continue to 
exploit farm workers in feudal or semi-feudal conditions on vast estates 
where they enjoy near-monopoly control.

In addition to claiming ownership of Hacienda Luisita, the 
Cojuangco-Aquino dynasty also controls major financial institutions such 
as the Bank of Commerce and are highly visible in entertainment and in 
politics on every level, in addition to having ruled the country on 
various occasions, most recently under the 2010-2016 administration of 
former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

In fact, the Cojuangco-Aquino family itself spearheaded past failed 
attempts at land reform. In 1988, Noynoy's mother and former President 
Corazon Aquino put forward the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, 
which set the terms for the redistribution of public and private 
agricultural land to poor farm workers and peasants.

Since then, hundreds of fighters and advocates for rural rights have 
been killed in paramilitary violence while estates like Hacienda Luisita 
— which Aquino inherited from her father, “Don Pepe” Jose Cojuangco — 
were exempted from the reform law and shielded by successive governments 
from redistribution through a complex system of laws that allowed for 
rampant illegal and semi-legal land grabs.

Rather than the hacienda being redistributed to the peasants, thousands 
of hectares were simply kept by the family while other sections were 
partitioned into non-agricultural illegal conversions with titles “sold” 
to such entities as Luisita Golf and Country Club, Luisita Realty 
Corporation and Las Haciendas Subdivisions. According to Agrarian Reform 
Secretary Rafael Mariano, the land was sold to “influential 
personalities and local politicians.”

Now, as agrarian reform is a condition of the peace process 
between the government of President Rodrigo Duterte and the National 
Democratic Front of the Philippines, social movements across the 
archipelago plan on ensuring that this time around, the process is truly 

“There is no better time for the Filipino youth and students to immerse 
and integrate with the peasants to forward the resounding call for 
genuine agrarian reform and create a powerful wave of anti-feudal mass 
movements throughout the country,” said national youth group Anakbayan 
in a statement released Wednesday, calling for youth to prepare to join 
rural workers in the wave of occupations envisioned for the coming months.

In the eyes of rural leaders, there can never be a turning back of the 
clock in regards to their right to stake a legitimate claim to land they 
break their backs working on a daily basis.

“Farmers can only rely on our collective strength,” said KMP chairperson 
Joseph Canlas. “Assertion of our right to the land is the way to proceed 
with actual land distribution.”

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