Government officials have finally stepped in to avert further bloodshed in the Tagum City land dispute between agrarian reform beneficiaries and Lapanday Foods Corp, after two more farmers were wounded in an attack the corporation’s guards today.
The latest outbreak of violence brings to nine the number of farmers injured since beneficiaries asserted on December 9 their claim to land already awarded by the DAR and the regional trial court.
Wounded were Randy Rana and another farmer, surnamed Patindol, who were among seven members standing guard over field workers harvesting crop and then slashing down banana trees.
Aides of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano, who is issuing a cease and desist order today against Lapanday, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been coordinating since rthe initial outbreak of violence last Dec. 12.
Soon after word of the second attack broke, the DILG issued orders to local officials, prompting aid for beleaguered farmers.
In a telephone interview, Tagum Mayor Allan L Rellon, who reached the site around 10 am, said he had ordered the local police to disarm the guards.
Rellon also said he would put up a “command incident center” to prevent further violence.
Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro said, also in a phone interview, that local cops had initially refused to step in because the incident happened on private land.
He said both incidents were premeditated and without provocation from farmers.
Rellon said his office had attempted a dialogue in the city hall with the chief of police and provincial agrarian reform officials. He said it did not push through because farmers’ representatives would not leave their camp site on the disputed land.
Mantos said leaders wanted farmers to listen to the dialogue and they could not abandon the land because the armed guards would move in.
Slashed trees: Marbai representatives have harvested and slashed down around five hectares of banana crop, saying they would plant the cleared land with vegetable crops to augment the food needs of 159 families.
Farmers were cutting down banana trees when guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, attacked this morning, according to Mantos.
Mantos said farmers had slashed at least five hectares of banana plantations yesterday.
“The guards would not let us farm and harvest in peace so we decided on an action that would also deprive them of what Lapanday wants to steal from us,” Mantos said in the local dialect.
He also said the cleared land would be rehabilitated and planted with vegetables and other crops that could augment the food needs of some 159 beneficiary families.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had sent a legal team and held an emergency meeting after the first shooting incident last December 12.
It immediately ordered regional and provincial executives to probe the incident and file cases against some 20 perpetrators, led by the head guard only identified by his surname, Vicente.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilha, legal consultant for DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano, said officials would also file today with DARAB (adjudication board) Davao del Norte a motion for Execution of the May 12, 2016 order of installation and to Supervise Harvest.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano issued a ruling in December 2015 for the Marbai members to be installed on the disputed 145 hectares.
“The said decision has long been final and executory but was not implemented by PARAD Tillano for one reason or another,” Pahilga said.
In October this year, impatient farmer-beneficiaries camped out in front of the Lapanday gate. Mariano had dialogued with the farmers, saying the government wanted to install them peacefully without compromising their safety and security.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has ordered the Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Region XI, and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office of Davao Del Norte to probe the reported gunfire attack by security guards of the Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) at the farmers’ encampment in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City.
A press release from the DAR said Mariano also instructed local DAR officials to coordinate with the Philippine National Police of Davao del Norte for the possible filing of cases against the suspects of the shooting incident.
What follows is the rest of the press release
“Six victims, including a 16-year-old minor, were taken to the Davao Regional Medical Center after sustaining gunshot wounds at around 7:45 a.m. An airborne craft was also seen spraying pesticide at the campsite immediately after the reported incident.
Farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) have been staging a camp-in protest at the LFC compound after successfully reclaiming the contested land last December 9, six years after the LFC evicted them out.
Almost 2,000 farmworkers and members of peasant organizations have joined the farmers’ camp in Brgy. Madaum to support the fight of the MARBAI farmers.
MARBAI members are farmer beneficiaries who were given Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Each of the 159 farmers owns a 0.79-hectare piece of the 145-hectare banana plantation.
According to Mely Yu, President of MARBAI, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC who buys their products for export. They were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were poorly classified for a lower price, thus, resulting to a measly Php 2,000.00 monthly income, she added. Because of the agreement, the farmer beneficiaries became indebted to LFC for more or less a billion pesos (P1,000,000,000.00)
The DAR has been meeting with the farmers for their installation to the 145 hectares as ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in his December 15, 2015 decision, which has long been final and executory.
In October of this year, when the farmer-beneficiaries were already in a camp-out in front of the gate of LFC, Secretary Mariano himself visited the farmers and had a dialogue with them assuring them that DAR is studying the matter carefully and wanted to install them peacefully into their landholding without compromising their safety and security.
A long-running conflict between Lapanday Foods Corporation and agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte, exploded today in a shooting incident that followed a successful attempt by farmers to reclaim their land.
Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro, said in a phone interview that guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, wounded seven protesters.
Jose Balucos, 42yrs old; Rico Saladaga , Jojo Gomez , Belardo Francisco, Emanuel Buladaco,46 yrs old; Taldan Miparanun,16yrs old; and Joseph Bertulfo, 58yrs old, were rushed to the Davao Regional Medical Center.
Buladaco and Bertulfo are among the 159 direct beneficiaries involved in the protest, according to Mantos, who remains with more than 200 farmers on the reclaimed land.
The others are members of Humawac cooperatives in the Southern Mindanao area, who reinforced the beneficiaries in their efforts to assert their landonwership that a regional trial court and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2011. He said they are waiting for medical updates on their colleagues.
The shooting came two days after some 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries and supporters stormed the gates of their land – forcibly taken over by Lapanday in 2011 following the DAR decision.
Mantos said armed guards of Lapanday entered the encampment past 7 a.m.
He and other protest leaders were holding a dialogue with the guards’ leader, only known by his surname, Vicente, just three meters from the main bulk of protesters when they heard gunshots.
As protesters rushed to aid the fallen, the guards retreated. The other protesters strengthened their barricades and undertook defensive formations.
After the wounded were taken off the encampment, Mantos siad, the guards returned, having replaced their guns with wooden clubs. They challenged the farmers to a brawl but were ignored, Mantos added.
The land dispute in an area barely an hour from President Rodrigo Duterte’s Davao City turf has been festering since 1996 when the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) awarded 724 farmers in Madaum nearly 570 hectates of land, mostly planted with banana export crop.
Lapanday just released this statement:
Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) denies any involvement in the reported shooting of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City this morning. Since last week, the company has been seeking police assistance to investigate the presence of armed men who were seen within the areas under Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). HEARBCO-1 which has acknowledged its existing and valid contracts with LFC has been in conflict with a breakaway group of its former members led by Mely Yu who has been engaging armed men to inflict violence and disrupt operations in the farm. Mely Yu and her group were ousted as officers by the majority of HEARBCO-1 in 2011 and since then, her group has caused severe damage to the cooperative. This internal conflict among the HEARBCO-1 and this breakaway group may be the reason for this latest incident.
Protesters deny the claim of armed men, saying guards fired in the air when they asserted farmers’ right to the land. A Kilab Multimedia photo shows most of the protesters without shirts “to prove they were not armed.”
The timeline of the land dispute also indicates that Lapanday has waged a legal battle with the farmers — and lost its case twice.
A decade of woes
The DAR order was covered by Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) No.00398239, issued under Transfer Certificate of Title No. C-10527 and registered on 18 December 1996.
The mother cooperative of beneficiaries, the HIJO EMPLOYEES AGRARIAN REFORM COOPERATIVE 1 (HEARCO1), signed a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) with Lapanday, owned by the Lorenzo family.
Mantos said within two years, many farmer beneficiaries expressed dismay at the low price for their products and the many supposed debts subtracted from their sales income, “kasi di nila alam saan nanggagaling ang utang at walang supporting documents.”
In the ten years, from 1998 to 2008, skirmishes between restive beneficiaries and guards cost two lives and injured several from both sides of the conflict. Farmer leaders were also booted out of work and reinstated only after years of legal battle.
When the contract with Lapanday expired in 2009, the beneficiaries undertook a referendum for future plans. Majority voted to extend the contract, while 159 voted No.
The nay-voters eventually reached an agreement with the mother cooperative, which allowed them to leave, ceding over 145 hectares covered by a document.
“They found a new buyer with better contract — $8 a box from $4 a box paid by Lapanday,” Mantos said.
The DAR ruled in favor of the benificiaries in 2010, upholding their right to the land parcel ceded by the mother cooperative.
Lapanday: no owner – but exerts control
Mantos said the 145 hectares is only one case. Other land parcels are also involved in on-going disputes between beneficiaries and Lapanday, for unjust wages and onerous practices – reminiscent, he said, of the old, feudal plantation setups in the pre-CARP era.
Lapanday denies ownership of the land. But it filed a a case against the new group, covering the lands they tilled. The corporation lost that legal battle too, with the regional trial court ruling in favor of the formers.
Mantos said the agrarian reform beneficiaries were preparing to till the land after victory when “300 Lapanday guards and goons atacked.”
“Tinutukan sila ng baril at pinalayas,” he said. (Guns were pointed at them and they were forced off the land.)
Despite the legal victories, the beneficiaries were kept out of their lands for the next six years.
After seven months of pickets at the gate of Lapanday’s local office, the farmers sought reinforcement from other peasant’s group in the region and entered to reclaim their land on December 9.
“Lapanday Foods Corporation clarifies that it does not claim ownership over agrarian reform lands awarded to Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HARBCO) and Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). This is in reaction to a recent gathering of members and sympathizers of these cooperatives at its offices in Davao City,” the statement read. The LFC said these cooperatives remain the absolute owners of these lands and they only want “these cooperatives honor and respect their valid and lawful contracts with LFC that mandate them to sell the bananas produced in their farms to LFC and allow LFC to manage their farms to ensure the quality of their produce.” The company also said in the contracts where HARBCO borrowed funds for its use from LFC, HARBCO and LFC entered into a banana sales and marketing agreement in 1998 and a general framework on farm handling last December 23, 2008. In these contracts, HARBCO committed to exclusively sell bananas produced in its farm to LFC and allow LFC to manage its farms to ensure the export quality of the bananas.
The Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao said the tagum dispute “is a classic example of what Pres.Duterte refers to as Feudalism.”
The KMP urged Duterte “to walk the talk” and intervene with the farmers upholding the DAR decision.
“We hope that he understands very well that agrarian reform remains myth so long as landlords continously grabbed the lands of nameless farmers. If the farmers will not fight for their rights to survive what assurance can they get from this landlord-dominated government?” said KMP-SMR chairperson, Pedro Arnado.
Lords of the land
The Tagum dispute is an emblem of the struggles that face Filipino farmers decades after the passage of what was pledged to be a landmark law for a comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) and congress approval of a successor program, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER).
Lapanday is controlled by the Lorenzo clan. Its chief executive officer, Regina Lorenzo, is the sister of Martin Lorenzo, a top executive of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the sugar mill of the Cojuangco clan’s sprawling Hacienda Luisita.
A recent outbreak of violence also occurred in Luisita, where beleaguered land workers still have to benefit fully from a final Supreme Court ruling in 2013.
Distribution of land has gone very slowly for beneficiaries. In 2009, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives, said CARP had a balance of 1.6 million hectares, covering 1.2 million farmer beneficiaries. The environment department, it added, also had nearly 600,000 hectares of land still undistributed to farmer-tillers.
CARPER received a P150 billion budget. But in a 2015 report, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said DAR had still failed to distribute 726, 421 hectares and the DENR still had some 100,000 hectares to go.
Even those who have received land continue to struggle from their lack of access to affordable credit, the continued lack of support mechanisms from government and the market control exercised by agriculture dealers who are also often big landlords.
The hardships often end up with re-concentration of lands, which are then blamed on workers and not on government neglect and collusion with big landowners.
Mariano said the proposed EO should also cover applications for exemption/exclusion of land from the coverage of CARP and other agrarian reform laws and programs.
The practice is currently allowed by Section 20 of the Local Government Code, which authorizes municipal and city councils to reclassify agricultural lands into other uses.
It’s a long, long fight, paid for by tears and blood. Farmers formed the bulk of restive Filipinos who rose up against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and joined the New People’s Army as big ticket development projects drove them off their lands.
We’ve seen a gazillion fake news, fake memes, fake announcements this #Halalan2016 season.
There will always be trolls. That’s the downside of the Internet and social media.
Trolls thrive on manipulation, on lies, on scamming gullible folk.
This isn’t hard to do. People will believe most stuff – even embrace conspiracy theories — that validate their own beliefs.
Every professional who conducts workshops on social media will tell Netizens to be wary, to check the original link, to go independently to news websites or accounts allegedly responsible for the suspicious posts. It also helps to check rival news websites.
Even professional journalists have been had. Remember that Oprah comment in the wake of Shamcey’s heart-breaking loss at the Miss Universe pageant? Yeah, some news websites ran that. Even international media outfits have fallen for fake news about the Iraq and Syria conflicts, hurricane Sandy and other big events.
In this last election, even “responsible” elders have deliberately shared fake news, malicious plants that have nothing to do with the errors that come with the 24/7 news cycle.
I remember the hilarious post Vice President Jejomar Binay stash of money found behind a wall. Some friend on Twitter, someone I actually respect, tagged several journalists on a photo post that opened to … nothing. This was during the time when the Mar Roxas camp was gunning for Binay. There was another similar post, dubious even to the untrained eye. But was my friend apologetic? Nah. She said, well, it’s up to you investigative journalists to investigate.
You can understand some kid asking… “ma’am I stumbled on this; is it true?” It’s disappointing to see a communications expert spouting this line.
We’ll save the other trolls for another post.
Let’s focus on communications specialists who show no compunction planting fake news.
Let’s not even talk about such communications specialists blindly scooping up the funny D’ Strafford surveys and passing this on as gospel truth.
It’s the deliberate spread of false news that should set off alarms at the Paris-based Publicis Groupe. Especially false news that drag the country’s Catholic bishops into the fray.
Matec Villanueva, the chief executive officer of Publicis Manila, the local agency of the Publicis Groupe, shared at least two memes with false claims to back up her verbal jabs at Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte’s followers — especially those of the Marcos-loyalist bent — have been responsible for many false plants on social media.
You’d think an advertising CEO would be more discriminating.
There are a million and one charges on can hurl at Duterte, without involving the bishops. It’s not like Netizens live in a vacuum where they can’t check what’s happening on the other side of the bubble.
There’s no understanding such a lapse, unless it’s a matter of, well — friendship — with Mar Roxas.
They’ve advised against tendencies by some candidates. Mayhem could be a pointed dig at Duterte. On the other hands, the bishops have also spoken out against the terrible violence unleashed by state forces on the Lumad.
They also warned against crimes against the environment. Roxas has praised some dudes as exemplars of good practices in total contradiction of a Supreme Court decision; he also okayed tax perks on their planes while he was still transportation secretary.
A communications specialist like Villanueva ought to know enough to double check – the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has contact details. A communications specialist could have scanned news outfits to double check the claim.
It’s not just an issue of ethics but of professionalism. Aren’t these ad executives supposed to review even their clients’ claims? Aren’t they held to standards of truth in advertising? She’s supposed to be a lecturer in marketing in some hot-shot Catholic university. What does she teach the kids?
I guess some incentives trump ethics and professionalism.
Overreach will always unbalance you. Is Villanueva the ad agency version of Trillanes?
Talk is, Roxas isn’t amused – as her efforts have just opened him up to more ridicule. The saner of his campaign staff are bristling.
And I guess our bishops won’t be pleased either– to put it mildly.
You have to give the guys from D’Strafford credit for cheek, for cobbling a parallel #Halalan2016 universe.
You have to give them credit, too, for causing very respectable and decent folk to hyperventilate with joy.
Never mind that the morning after, the equally respectable Manila Bulletin had to take down the news item about Mar Roxas “sustaining” his lead over rival wannabe-presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Santiago.
I guess it’s hard for professionals to ignore the reality of D’Strafford’s latest press release. Guess it’s hard to defend a survey firm’s credibility when their release mentions candidate Poe twice, under different rankings.
It’s also hard to keep a straight face when the Sun Star — whose editor got into a tussle with social media critics after its report on Strafford’s debut — placed in ” ” project manager JM Balancar’s defense of their methodology.
It’s the “proving” question, dudes, Balancar told journalists in press conference following the release of their April 13-18 alleged survey.
He was asked why their press release had nothing to back up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte ‘s rape joke scared off some fans. He said other things, of course. Feel free to read the quotes.
Unlike other survey firms, D’ Strafford sends out a press release, instead of a detailed report that includes mechanics and sub-topics.
We still haven’t seen the actual “proving” question. So we don’t know if voter-respondents got lost in the racing syntax of D’ Strafford’s pollsters. It’s a trademark.
Or so Abante claims. You would think they’d bring a photographer to a press con announcing the results of a major survey. You would think any reporter these days would have a mobile phone with a still and video camera.
Instead, we get a file photo and a leap of faith on the part of the editors. The story actually sounds lifted from yet another wacky press release — though I’ll lay the blame for the photo on Abante.
I was tempted to write to Mr. Stevenson but suddenly thought of the embarrassment that could bring Roxas, the man who would be President. But I will. Tomorrow.
Meantime, let us rejoin in the miracle! And let us enjoy the cosmic tweets from the phantoms of this election.
“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.
But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.
A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.
The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.
Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.
When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey.
D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.
I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.
A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”
Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?
Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.
When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.
I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.
He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.
Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.
I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader. Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.
Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.
D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.
Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:
Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.
But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.
D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.
Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:
“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.”
You make try to decipher that.
Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).
After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.
He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”
A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”
Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.
It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.
Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.
So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.
Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.
Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.
This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.
Hunger that drives people to madness and despair is tragic. Ignoring needs of hungry folk and answering demands for food with a hail of bullets is criminal. Launching a parade of lies to defend the indefensible is obscene. It strips President Benigno Aquino’s government of legitimacy.
The President is missing in the face of crisis, as usual. His spokespersons and alter egos, and local stooges, swerve and lurch from one falsehood to another.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Wilben Mayor claimed cops didn’t carry guns. Photos show armed cops were there from the start of the protest.
Then the PNP said armed cops were sent because of the reported presence of rebels. They got a search warrant against the protesters’ church-owned sanctuary, but came out of the United Methodist Church compound with only one sports cap.
It didn’t surprise anyone who’d already seen video footage of the dispersal. The (pleasant) surprise was to find that some government officials remain committed to truth-telling.
Watch: Bullets for Rice by Kilab Multimedia
Suddenly, functionaries who had demanded the public wait for a government probe decided CHR Region 12 Director Erlan Deluvio. was not a person of authority.
The government ignored Deluvio and turned right to focus on a new tack: communists were to blame for “duping” the farmers.
Farmers didn’t know why they were there, said these spokespersons.
Who fed them? demanded Malacanang factotums and lapdogs. There would have been no protest if nobody fed and encouraged these poor farmers, they said.
Liberal party standard bearer Mar Roxas has joined the chorus, as if he didn’t see the outpouring of support for the Lumad he and his patron refused to help.
Filipinos responded to the callous spin with an outpouring of rice donations for the farmers.
Officials staged more tantrums. The donations were aimed at embarrassing the government, they said.
Cops barred food from reaching protesters. They also tried to bar lawyers, rights workers and kin from access to the wounded, even to the dead.
National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia said cops kept arrested protesters in a gym way beyond the legally prescribed time — and then, in the absence of a lawyer, made them sign away their rights.
Every right had to be fought for. In the city of Kidapawan, the Philippines has its first display of urban hamletting — mass illegal detention and denial of the most basic needs.
The government even tried to scare off local businesses. Tudla Productions reported on April 5:
Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, Jr. recieved a call from a trader that 300 sacks of rice to be donated to farmers were held up in the warehouse for the police refused that the sacks be taken out. The sacks were purchased by Becky Vidanes, Robin Padilla’s manager.
The persistent outcry and appalled statements from multilateral agencies and international groups and most media outfits prompted an about face that finally allowed the flow of aid today.
But not before the most obscene act opened.
The budget secretary, responding to reports that it had slashed P2-billion off requested El Nino mitigating funds, said agencies had been told to source whatever was needed from the budgets for other programs.
It truly needs people living on a different plane of reality would think it is right to cut an urgent request in half, and then stealing funds from allocated programs to cover up.
That’s a shell game, pure and simple, using people’s money – and you wonder what they’re covering up because they’ve been throwing money left and right to their pet legislators and local government officials.
National government started an outpouring of technocratese to numb the debate. But one of the ruling coalition’s most powerful members decided spice things up by suddenly becoming a security spokesman for the government.
Prospero Alcala, President Aquino’s untouchable agriculture secretary – a slew of graft charges, his congressional slush fund ending up in ghost NGOs that used farmers without ever giving them the benefit of taxpayers’ monies – told media:
Things aren’t so bad; the communists only want it to sound bad, because they wanted a big shebang to celebrate the March 29 anniversary of the New People’s Army. The entire protest, says Alcala, was just a show. There wasn’t much hunger. There was, in fact a bumper crop.
That made for a collective puke heard around the country.
And that’s how you know it’s over, when the government starts botching up even the simplest rules of logic.
Government neglect and inefficiency and hubris were responsible for the Kidapawaan tragedy. Everything else that follows is just proof that this is a government without soul and, thus, without legitimacy. #30