This October, we celebrate National Peasant Month and stand in solidarity with the countless Filipino farmers struggling for land, dignity and the right to a life free from capitalist exploitation and state violence. Join us tomorrow night at 7 pm for the ICHRP Songs in Solidarity benefit dinner and concert, which will feature local Filipino food, live performances, and an educational discussion on the peasant situation in the Philippines. Visit ichrptoronto.org for more information.
Almost 75% of the 114 million people in the Philippines are peasants, indebted to big landlords and working on land they do not own. Despite having a profitable agricultural sector, the Philippines remains export-oriented and import-dependent. Farmers are among the poorest populations, often unable to afford the food they grow, while the food they produce is sold on international markets to line the pockets of the bourgeoisie. Thus, despite the agricultural wealth of the islands, 50% of the food consumed in the Philippines must be imported at a high price.
The root of the people’s struggle lies in the semi-feudal nature of Philippine society. Peasants are pushed out of land ownership by a government that prioritizes large landlords and many end up paying landlords exorbitant fees to till their own land. This system leaves 90% of Filipino peasants landless and many in debt as they struggle to pay increasing costs of farming. After paying for their loans, little money is left for Filipino families to survive, causing intense food insecurity and starvation.
The Sagay Massacre
Filipino peasants are branded as terrorists by the government when they voice concerns over anti-peasants policies. Protesting peasants are met with militarization and are often murdered or bombed. On October 21, 2018, one such massacre occurred, where 9 peasants were murdered in Barangay Bulanon, Sagay City for their involvement in collective farming. These peasants are remembered as the Sagay 9.
On the 5-year anniversary of the Sagay massacre, we remember the nine people who were gunned down by armed men while resting in their makeshift tent on the first day of cultivation. The group of farm workers killed, which included two minors, were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers and were farming collectively to make use of idle, unused lands; a strategy used by landless peasants to survive called Bungkalan.
After the failure of successive government’s land reform programs, many peasants are left with no choice but to seek out unused land to cultivate. Peasants such as these are murdered with impunity on the behalf of the landlord and capitalist classes who attack peasants asserting their right to land. These attacks are carried out by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and associated militias paid by the landlords, some by the state, to violently oppress the peasents. It is common to find these militias led and manned in part by AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) members. Indeed, the two official militias, Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) and Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) are controlled by the AFP and PNP respectively.
We refuse to condemn the peasants who decide to fight back against this oppression by organizing and engaging in armed struggle. We recognize the violence begins and ends with the oppressor who can bring about peace by ending the oppression and does not start when the oppressed finally fight back.
We strongly condemn attacks on peasants in their struggle for land and support their struggle for genuine agrarian reform now!
Peasants are not terrorists!