Massacre of farmers

Massacre of farmers

WHEREVER there is massive poverty there is injustice. People are made poor! Their rights are stepped upon and they are even oppressed! This reality has again come to the fore with the massacre of the farmers in Hacienda Nene, Purok Fire Tree, Barangay Bulanon in Sagay City of Negros Occidental last October 20. Nine farmers, three of whom were women and two minors, were gunned down in their makeshift camp after they had taken their dinner around 9:30 pm by unknown assailants. After this brutal killing gasoline was poured over their bodies and they were set on fire.

Massacre of farmers is not new. We still remember the Escalante massacre in 1985, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2002, and the KidapawanMassacre in 2016. Under Duterte’s watch in the last two years, 45 farmers have already been killed in Negros.

The reason for all these killings? Land! The farmers are denied their right to the land. Our Constitution of 1987 clearly stipulates that land reform is to be implemented to bring about social justice in the countryside. This mandate has been haphazardly executed because of the vested interests of our politicians who mostly come from the landed elite. Instead, the farmers who fight for their right to the land are tagged as “rebels” by the authorities. Hence many of them are mercilessly abused and even killed. The Sagay massacred is the most recent incident.

Many farmers’ groups resort to “Bungkalan” because the implementation of the constitutional mandate of Land Reform is very lame and slow. Not a few blame the farmers for forcible entry, but how many would blame the government and the landowners for non-implementation of the Basic Law of the land? But even if the bungkalan is “illegal,” would this be enough reason to kill them mercilessly?

Some officials in the government is “softening” this brutality by tagging the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) to which the farmers belong as leftist. Do they mean that “leftists” are fair game, that they can just be killed?

The government seems not to be able to put their acts together. While some officials claim that the NFSW is leftist, other officials in the same administration, without any evidence at all, already tag the NPA as the perpetrators. This is already a sign that the killers will not be brought in. Can they bring in the NPA?

Now some, to ride on the anger of the public, assert that the “full wrath of the law” be fall on the killers? Are they really serious, or is this just plain bravado? Will the perpetrators, and more so, the brains, be ever brought to justice? Has the government the political will and the capability to bring justice for the farmers? Basing on the records of the Escalante massacre, the Hacienda Luisita massacre, the Kidapawan massacre, and the so many killings of farmer leaders, I strong doubt. None of the masterminds of these dastardly deeds have been brought to justice. The strong suspicion is that those involved are among the land owners, the military and/or the politicians.

But justice to the farmers is not just to get the killers of the Sagay massacre. It is to address the root of these killing. Give land to the farmers! Implement the constitutional mandate of land reform! Nothing short of this will bring peace in our troubled countryside.

Has this administration the political will to do this? Will it be a better government than the previous ones, or will it be of the same kind—elitist, corrupt and against the people?  (Guest Editorial written by Bishop Broderick Pabillo)