Today, the revolutionary peasants of Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM) in Southern Mindanao Region commemorate the 4th year anniversary of the Kidapawan massacre, the brutal shooting of barricading peasants of North Cotabato by state forces on April 1, 2016 in Kidapawan City. We continue to denounce and reject the appalling semi-colonial and semi-feudal system that mercilessly claims the lives of Filipino peasants, both with hunger and bullets.
This reactionary government, then under the US-Aquino regime, responded with fatal hostility to the rightful demands of the destitute farmers stricken by the El Niño calamity. The peasants were rallying for the government to immediately dispense emergency disaster relief and agrarian subsidies from calamity funds, but were hailed with gunshots instead. Two unarmed civilians died in the aftermath of the carnage. This rotten system, which subjugates peasants under perpetual state of landlessness, backward agriculture, depressed wages, sordid poverty, and state-neglect, summarily puts them at gunpoint and renders them more vulnerable in times of calamity.
With the advent of yet another calamity following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see no difference in the hostile and negligent response of the US-Duterte regime, which puts majority of Filipinos—peasants and agri-workers—at risk of the disease but in graver economic situation as well. Peasants who live in hand-to-mouth subsistence are currently restricted in lockdowns and enhanced community quarantines with no food relief, medical subsidy, or livelihood safety nets. And with Duterte’s highly militaristic approach to the outbreak, with his heavy deployment of fascist AFP troops poised to quell any resistance, an extensive mass uprising is sure to be in the offing.
From the onset, Duterte’s neoliberal policies have already systematically plunged our peasants into deep socio-economic crisis even prior to the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, the Rice Tarriffication Law has crippled local rice production in favor of imported rice from foreign countries. Duterte has allowed the massive landgrabbing of prime agricultural land from peasants, especially in Southern Mindanao, to make way for vast plantations of foreign-owned agri-corporations.
The country’s export-oriented and import-dependent economy will surely suffer the effects of food insecurity now that trading borders between countries have been strictly regulated as the pandemic ensues.
Thus, we call on all peasants, agri-workers, and their associations to build stronger political unities and carry out the program of agrarian revolution in the countryside. To mitigate the effects of the pervading outbreak on our livelihood and food sustenance, we call on the peasant class to implement programs such as collective farming and product bartering, organic agriculture, and develop fruit and vegetable farms for food consumption.
We must demand the free distribution and widespread cultivation of idle public lands, the immediate and unconditional installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries in the lands that were previously plundered from them by transnational and multi-national corporations, and that peasants be provided with comprehensive support in order to ensure their productivity in line with doing away with our dependence from imported agricultural products. Agri-corporations that have long benefited from the reactionary government’s support for export economy must be forced to allay part of the food and relief requirements to undertake these production programs. We must also demand for a halt to all payments being enforced against peasants by onerous usury agreements and other debts.
Furthermore, we urge everyone to relive the militant unity of the North Cotabato peasants in the face of calamity in their struggle to dismantle the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system. We must stand united in the call to hold the US-Duterte regime accountable for its negligence and incompetence, demand revolutionary justice for the victims of Kidapawan massacre and all injustices perpetuated against the peasantry, and rely, first and foremost, on our collective strength to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis that is sure to ensue.