Over the past months, hundreds of farmers in Southern Tagalog (ST) participated in a simultaneous Bungkalan or collective land cultivation activities as a show of solidarity and protest amidst the long struggle for genuine land reform.
Spearheaded by Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid – Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), Bungkalan activities were carried out in Lupang Kapdula in Cavite, Hacienda Roxas and Sitio Balakbakan in Batangas, Hacienda Gancayco in Quezon, and Lupang Almeda in Occidental Mindoro “to enrich the lands seized by landlords and big corporations.”
“Ang mga serye ng Bungkalan na isinasagawa ng ating mga magsasaka dito sa rehiyon ay nagsisilbing protesta laban sa mga panginoong maylupa na hinahadlangan ang aming mga karapatan para sa lupa,” said KASAMA-TK in a statement.
Collective land cultivation as form of protest and solidarity
Last May 30, 2017, farmers in Maragondon, Cavite successfully occupied the 155-hectare Lupang Kapdula seized by Enrile clan – owned JAKA Investments Corporation along with South Cavite Land Company and Sta. Lucia Realty Corporation.
It has been twenty years since they signed a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the South Cavite Land Co., promising them an improvement from the traditional farming and granting them ownership to the land. However, it was “under false pretense” as the lands were planned to be converted into a residential area, forcing them to leave the lots.
As form of protest, Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kapdula (SAMAKA) along with other sectoral organizations headed the bungkalan in more than 133 hectares of idle land in which they planted vegetable and root crops.
“Matagal na naming ipinaglalaban ang lupang ito. Pitong taon na kaming may abogado ngunit ang kinikilalang may-ari ng lupaing ito ay ang mga malalaking korporasyon,” said Belinda Mujica, a member of SAMAKA.
In Nasugbu, Batangas, the Damayan ng mga Manggagawang Bukid ng Batangas (DAMBA) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa at Magbubukid ng Batangas (ALMMASAN) joined the “balik-saka” in Hacienda Roxas owned by landlord Don Pedro Roxas. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) granted to them the land in 1993 but Don Pedro Roxas refused to recognize it.
In the same plight, farmers in Hacienda Gancayco launched a provincial caravan circling the populous towns of Quezon in support of the bungkalan in their areas. In Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, farmers of Lupang Almeda held a camp-out and bungkalan last June 26, 2017.
Threats and harassment
While doing the bungkalan activities, the farmers did not escape intimidation and harassment from the private guards and state forces.
On June 4, 2017, private guards of JAKA Investments Corp. threatened the farmers of Lupang Kapdula in the middle of their bungkalan activity. The said guards stole their flags and other equipment while destroying the farmers’ huts already in place. Afterwards, they erected their own huts near the farm site.
In Lupang Almeda at Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro, around 100 police and private guards arrived in the farm site last July 26, 2017 and demolished the makeshift houses set up by the farmers.
Meanwhile, security guards from Gold Cross Agency tried to block the farmers’ activities in Nasugbu, Batangas. They repeatedly tried to make the farmers leave putting up a ‘No Trespassing’ sign in the area.
“Iba’t ibang kaso na ng pagpapaalis at harassment ang aming nararanasan simula pa noon ngunit hinding hindi kami magpapatinag at itutuloy pa rin namin ang aming karapatan na magbalik-saka at magbungkal sa aming mga lupa,” added Mujica.
Plight under current administration
KARAPATAN, a human rights organization, accounts for more than 64 peasant leaders and activists killed under President Duterte’s term while incidences of harassment still continue.
“Kung tunay ngang sinsero ang gobyernong Duterte na tahakin ang landas ng kapayapaan, dapat ay mapagpasya nitong itigil ang tumitinding pagpatay sa mga magsasaka at tugunan ang problema sa kawalan ng Lupa,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
According to Flores, the struggle for a genuine land reform program is far from over especially with the impending hearing for Ka Paeng Mariano’s confirmation as Secretary of DAR as of press time. However, bungkalan and balik-saka activities will continue amidst the said challenges. [P]