Manila, Philippines - The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) questioned President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s inaction on the cry of the farmers for relief when it is already public knowledge that they have been devastated by the El Niño phenomenon, worsening their already impoverished state caused by landlessness and absence of sources of livelihood. At present, tens of thousands of farmers are demanding relief from Mindanao, Negros island and Cagayan Valley.
“We are compelled to ask the president whether he is capable of hearing the cry of the poor and hungry farmers. Is it that various government agencies have already declared that the effects of extreme drought would be colossal but we are yet to see a proportionate amount of response from the Aquino government? It is already ironic that those who cultivate for the country’s food needs still need to barricade a highway to get attention for food aid. This has become a complete picture of government abandonment and Aquino who is president appears not to be his brother’s keeper,” Sr. Francis Añover, RMP National Coordinator said in a statement.
RMP said that the violent disperal in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato did not cow the hungry farmers to sustain their mass actions demanding for relief.
“If the farmers do not organize themselves and act in unison, they and their families would certainly die of starvation. It is explicable that they are waging with their safety, liberty and lives in holding protests that at least they have a fighting chance to get food,” Añover added.
At the Kidapawan protest, the 6,000 farmers were demanding 15,000 sacks of rice; while in Bukidnon, 5,000 farmers were demanding 4,200 sacks or 1 sack for each family; in Koronadal, South Cotabato, the 3,000 farmers are demanding 15,000 sacks; in Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani, the demands are also 15,000 sacks, while in General Santos City, 8,000 sacks. There are 2,000 farmers in Cagayan De Oro City, Misamis Oriental also demanding food aid, while hundreds protested in Davao City and Pagadian City, Zamboanga Del Sur.
Meanwhile in Cagayan Valley, about 3,000 farmers protested marking the April 22 Earth Day by demanding relief from the effects of the drought. In Negros, farm workers are demanding government aid as they are facing “tiempo muerto” or the dead season or the non-existence of sources of livelihood as the lands are monocropped with sugarcane. The dead season in Negros is estimated to affect 5 million farmers.
In Quezon City, farmers affect by the MRT 7 project in San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan protested near Aquino Times Street residence as it is bulldozing their crops that are their only sources of livelihood. In Hacienda Luisita, the farm workers condemned the recent bulldozing of their crops by the Cojuangco-Aquino family.
“Farmers protesting by the tens of thousands is serious and their legitimate demands should not be belittled,” Añover said.
In response to the Kidapawan atrocity, the religious women and men of RMP launched a relief mission entitled ‘Food Aid in, Soldiers Out’ to gather support for the farmers in Mindanao and other regions affected by drought. Also, this initiative is to inform and encourage the public that aside from hunger, landlessness, farmers are also the usual victims of militarization and other forms human rights violations perpetrated by government forces. Farmers blame the counter-insurgency program of the Aquino administration, Oplan Bayanihan, for the systematic abuse and demanded justice for the victims.
“We appreciate that the massive number of poor farmers are now mobilizing under their cry, ‘Land, Food and Justice,’ as they are their fundamental concerns. Hence, it is our utmost duty to ask Aquino, ‘why the inaction?’ ‘why the callousness?’” Añover raised.
RMP urged the religious community to ask the same question while concretely taking steps to alleviate the poverty and hunger our brothers and sisters in the peasant sector are now confronting. ###
The RMP is a national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men religious, priests and lay. We live and work with the peasants (farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples and agricultural workers).