Peasants march in Philippines.
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2008) - Chanting their disappointment over what they call seven “unlucky” years of grave destitution of the Filipino farmers under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency, peasants on Monday marched in Davao City in the southern Philippines to protest the current poverty situation in the country.
The protest coincided with President Gloria Arroyo’s 8th State of the Nation Address. Farmers together with Lumad tribesmen from Davao City’s said they are disgruntled and angry with the way the country, especially the agricultural sector, has been under Arroyo’s rule.
“President Arroyo should think twice before letting out promises that are already nailed even before she even finishes her SONA. Since 2001, she has promised cheap rice, prosperous farmers, and rice self-sufficiency. Now we dare her to look at the landless farmers eating root crops, bananas or nothing at all.”
“Look at the paupers in the street as they are made to beg for two kilos of rice which has tripled in cost,” said Tony Salubre, acting spokesperson of the Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC-KMP). Salubre cited landlessness as the prevailing problem of 70 % of the farmers in the region, a big percentage of whom are joining the increasing number of farm workers in banana or other crop plantations who he claim suffer from extremely low and unjust wages.
The protesters gathered at the Freedom Park where actors staged a play which showed hooded men in the act of beheading a farmer with a sickle, labeled with words “E-VAT (expanded value added tax) and RICE CRISIS.” Farmers complained that they are hardly able to get through a day with food on their stomach because of the high cost of basic commodities. Pedro Arnado, vice-chairperson of KMP- SMR, said more than 4,000 protesters also held a similar protest in North Cotabato province.
“Under GMA, this country has gone through the worst economic and political tragedy that this nation has never experienced before. The immorality, corruption, militarism and puppetry that have become the central policy of this regime, has made us the sick man of Asia that we are today,” Arnado said.
Arnado said the Arroyo presidency has been the worst “executioner” of farmers and Lumad who, due to extreme hardship is motivated to struggle and resistance.
Militant group KAWAGIB said Arroyo’s so-called pro-poor programs such as ‘Ramdam ang Kaunlaran’ and ‘Katas ng VAT’ as well as the mushrooming of foreign capitalists in the country, will again be the frontage of her rhetoric in the pretext of helping the Bangsamoro and Filipino people.
“But the truth continues to hunt the poor people. In a survey of Social Weather Station, 50% of the 88.9 million Filipinos are ‘self-rated poor’ and 14.9 million experiences hunger everyday while prices of oil and basic commodities continue to skyrocket. Cases of human rights violations are also continuing while the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination is not recognized,” it said.