Monday, October 27, 2008

Peasants appealed for government and Church's help during the Bishop-Peasants Forum

STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA --- Farmers, industrial workers, fishermen, women who expressed various problems subjected to their respective sectors have appealed for help from the government and the Church for the solution if not the end of their long-time struggle against poverty and social injustice during the church-initiated Bishop-Peasant Forum on Friday here.

The forum initiated by the Diocesan Social Action Center of the Diocese of San Pablo facilitated the dialogue and exchange of views, grievances, proposals between leaders of the multi-sectoral groups, namely farmers, industrial workers, fishermen, women and the government represented by the Office of the President (Malacanang), Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Church represented by Don Bosco Bishop Leo M. Drona and Social Action Director Fr. Rene B. Eriga.

Among most thought provoking discourses during the Forum was the one rendered by Romeo "Ka Romy" Olaez of the Hacienda Yulo Farmers Alliance (HYFA) of Canlubang , Calamba City where he revealed and presented statistics of rich people using their influences and power to manipulate the lands they and ancestors had been tilling for decades and the government's failure to protect them from being harassed and exploited.

Olaez said, the land they and their forefathers had been farming since 1905 actually involved 8,000 hectares which their ancestors had been paying taxes to the Americans during the US-controlled government in the country. It was in 1948 that the land suddenly became the property of the Madrigal Family and eventually became the property of the Yulo family.

The Yulo patriarch who became Mayor and Administrator of Calamba City had successfully applied for the re-classification of the "Yulo Lands" in 1993 from being Agricultural into Industrial, Commercial and Residential.
Today, said property or parts of it is now being claimed by another owner since the land became converted into Industrial, Commercial and Residential in 1993.
From that year on, farmers and their families had been subjected to various forms of harassments and violence. They also read in the papers and heard in different news that "NUVALI Project, Aurora, Eton City" will soon be established in the area to dabbed as "New Makati in the South".

Prior to the talk of Olaez, his fellow farmers including women and youths presented in artistic display their sad and bitter ordeal as people being forced to vacate their farms of about 100 years in the "name of progress."

The farmer leader also aired complaints that they have no assurance for CARP extension from the house bill 4077 which is supposed to be benefiting the farmers.
He also aired farmers' continued problem with DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo they seemed not to be addressing the Farmers concerns. "We have lots of unused land areas which we can use but there has been no permission for us to work since there is no law that will support our claim."
"We are thankful for the support given by the Diocese of Laguna and local officials supporting us in our rights and claims. Special thanks to Bishop Leo Drona and Fr. Rene Eriga [SAC] director and all the priests involved in this endeavour."
Another provocative discourse was the one delivered by Labor Union Leader Noel Alemania who expressed how the Government contradicts itself from the Constitution in dealing with workers in the country. He cited an example of workers' harassment by those in power like the big companies, his colleague and former president of their Union at Nestle Philippine in Cabuyao town (Diosdado Fortuna) was shot to death.
He also expressed workers fears and disappointments as their ranks have been subjected to all kinds of repressions and violence each time they went to the streets for their legitimate demands.

He also expressed dismay that as though companies and government institutions at present have connived to enforce contractualization policy and prohibited their rights to create a labor Union that will be against the Company's interest.

He said that government are even protecting the companies against the workers suffering from companies injustices. Nestle for example was given protection by the government by putting a police detachment at the company's site. Such practices are also the same at Toyata wherein a Police detachment was placed inside the company's compound for the company's protection against the mal-treated workers.
Many of the workers as are suffering from forced labor rendering work beyond 8 hours. There were also cases wherein Leaders of Labor Unions were brutally killed for fighting for the workers' rights and welfare.

The labor leader appealed to the Bishop, the Social Action Center, government personnel (represented by under-secretary Seguerra) and the military present (202nd Brigade Commander Col. Tristan Kison and Col. Ricardo Visaya based in Laguna) during the forum to organize regular dialogues/consultations like this one so that they would be given venues for mutual understanding with authorities and to give them opportunities to ventilate their problems.

Another farmer leader from Pila, Laguna Jojo Gonzales Province of Laguna in his talk, revealed that the province which used to be abundant of its natural resources has now been reduced into a place where farmers have limited areas to cultivate or to apply agriculture due to the conversion of agricultural lands into industrial, commercial, residential lands. "There is lack of government support for the farmers of Laguna, who are now bracing with economic difficulties."

Representing the Women Sector, Sis. Bombet Malinao of Calamba City expounded on the role of women in society. She said, the women in the society have shared their husbands responsibility in supporting the family and children. Hence, said most of the private and public offices including businesses have been ruled by women. She also presented the women sector's concern in the society particularly concerns like the lack of education, poverty, unemployment, peace and order situation and the like.
The forum which started at past 9:00 am on Friday at the Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and ended at about 3:00 pm, was also participated in by students from the Laguna State Polytechnic University, Sta. Cruz Campus who performed cultural presentations during an intermission portion of the day. The total number of participants is estimated at about 1,000.

The nuns of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Face of Jesus and the host parish of the Immaculate Conception led by Fr. Ricardo De Luna and parish personnel were also on hand to support the half-day activity.

The women also presented their all-female dance numbers prior to the talk delivered by the women leader Ms. Malinao.

The Hacienda Yulo farmers who came in full force presented the most heart-stunning number that portrayed their ordeal of being threatened at losing their lands which they have allegedly inhabited since 1905 into the hands of the rich and powerful who just appeared in the scene later in 1948.

Their drama presentation consisted of men and women Yulo farmers bringing placards, streamers, banana leaves where all their grievances were written in bold letters to reveal their plight as farmers living and tilling their lands for decades and being suddenly told to vacate and leave because those lands have new owners.