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HomeThe RegionBARMMSec. Leo Magno Inter-acts with the Poor & the Oppressed

Sec. Leo Magno Inter-acts with the Poor & the Oppressed

Kim Dream’s Orlan Ravanera

VERITAS LIBERABIT VOS (The Truth Shall Set Us Free)

As biblically pronounced in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a purpose under heaven.” It was so amazing for some 40 descendants of Ilocano settlers to have met and dialogued with no less than the Presidential Assistant for Eastern Mindanao, Hon. Secretary Leo Magno, in Davao City recently. All these years, the Ilocano settlers have been seeking redress of grievances which have become imperative a year or so ago when their vast tracts of farms planted with various crops are being tractored without let-up as a means of evicting them to give way to foreign corporations. All they want is for the rule of law to prevail following due process.

With an utmost sense of urgency, they have been seeking help even traveling to Manila, approaching various offices of government, and even trying to touch base with the 24 Senators to stop the continuing violation of their human rights as farming is their only means to life. But so far, no action has been done after all the pains, outpourings of tears and sleepless nights, phobia, and trauma. Suddenly, it was so amazing for them to meet Sec. Magno, who after hearing the horrible social injustices committed against the Ilocano farmer-settlers, ordered the Southern Philippines Development Authority for the immediate stoppage of tractoring their crops by these foreign corporations. If indeed these corporations have the right to damage their crops, due process should be followed. For such a simple act of following the rule of law by Sec Magno, it has dawned upon the Ilocano settlers that such move will be the much-needed paradigm shift.  

 After all their efforts to bring to the attention of government how some 21 of their relatives have been massacred on July 16, 2000, how their farms planted with crops are being damaged through continuous tractoring by two powerful trans-national corporations with the support of the AFP and the PNP in cohort with SPDA and the LGU of Amai Manabilang and how they are being repressed and harassed all these years, it was so amazing for them to have a listening ear as they narrated their painful experiences. ANG SABI PO NILA: “May mga araw na sinisira ang aming mga pananim, inaagaw ang aming mga lupain at takot kami na patayin. Kami po ang isang libong pamilyang Ilocano at kami po ay nanawagan para mabigyang solusyon ang pang aagaw ng lupa na aming sinasakahan”. 

Hard-working, compassionate and with high reverence to nature, some 1,000 Ilocano farmers coming from La Union, Pangasinan and Tarlac known as LAPANTAR came to Mindanao in the 1950’s and 60’s as settlers and have wonderfully developed the blessed land in Amai Manabilang known then as Bumbaran (Francfort and Upperport). In the last 60 years, the settlers and their descendants have wonderfully developed their agricultural lands sustainably following natures and sustenance economy, treating nature as like a “home” where their basic needs and the communities are provided for. Well, their long years of farming speaks well that they have already acquired prior rights over their land, following diversified and integrated sustainable agriculture and the ones supplying sugar cane to two manufacturing sugar plants, namely, Crystal and BUSCO.

What troubles them now and they are so puzzled why they are being driven-out from their land in utter disregard to their prior right. What pains them no end that in the process of driving them out, violence is being employed. Thus, many of them have bow down and surrendered their land right. What is so troubling was what happened on JULY 16, 2000 when some 21 Ilocano farmers including a pregnant woman were forced to enter the mosque and then MASSACRED. Such horrible crime was even disallowed to be covered by the Media. After more than two decades, no killer has been arrested. All the farmer-residents are now suffering so much anguished and living in fear every now and then, their planted crops i.e., sugarcane, vegetables, corn, and root crops which are supposed to be harvested are now being tractored and destroyed without let-up.   

Glaringly, instilling fear and harassment and destructions of their farm crops are means of massive coercion for eviction.  Thus, the 1000 Ilocano farmers have written an open-letter to the President seeking immediate solution to stop land grabbing activity of Kennemer Foods International, Inc. and Asia Pacific Precision Agriculture Group. In their letter to His Excellency, and to quote, “We are continuously harassed to leave our lands through Notices to Vacate printed in tarpaulins and conspicuously placed in strategic areas in our Brgy. Sumogot are all aware that there is no such thing as land ownership by SPDA to show proof that our Barangay is covered by AIDP guarded by armed personnel, KPI and ASPAC Group are now encroaching our lands using heavy equipment tractors witnessed helplessly by affected farmers for fear of their lives and the possible reprisal that will result to unwanted bloodshed.

“We stand to reject the offer of KPI and ASPAC Group to give way to their rent offer of sixteen thousand pesos per hectare of the land, we are currently tilling now, we planted with cash crops, vegetables and sugarcane which are our sources of income to feed our families and send our children to school. Our source of livelihood is solely farming, and we must to till public lands. The agrarian reform program is founded of the right of farmers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till and to receive just share of the fruits they planted thereof. A meeting took place on April 26,2023 at the Covered Court of Barangay Sumogot to relay to the farmers the plan of Kennemer and SPDA. During the Open Forum, Noel Subido stood to give his reactions saying that the 16,000 as rental per hectare is not enough for a family to survive and presented their right over their land, he was pushed, kicked, and mauled.  

“Mr. President, we the Ilocano farmers of Barangay Sumogot are strongly opposed on the call of SPDA to “change the agricultural landscape into more efficient farming technology, food security, job generation and better quality of life for the communities in Amai Manabilang and Wao, Lanao del Sur.”

On March 18, 2024, the Sumogot farmers went to the Office of the SPDA in Davao City and have a dialogue with SPDA officials including an amazing AFP Official, Gen. Jovencio Gonzales. They asked, “How can SPDA claimed ownership of some 26,000 hectares of agricultural lands in the municipalities of Wao and Amai Manabilang when glaringly thousands of settlers have already acquired prior right as they have been occupying their respective farms since the 1950s and 1960s?” In response, the SPDA agreed to conduct PROFILING which was passionately supported by the gallant General Gonzales. The conduct of profiling will somehow manifest the prior right of the Ilocano Settlers. But meanwhile, the SPDA declared through its administrator for Mindanao Mr. Cris Degala to order the stoppage of tractoring their crops by the two TNCs. The farmers in attendance were so happy and even publishing in a newspaper their firm salute to SPDA especially to Hon. Cris Degala, for ordering such outright stoppage. But it was just a simply a drama. No stoppage happened and the tractoring went on intensively. 

In their dialogue with Secretary Magno whose main function as CORDS (Cabinet Officer for Regional Development & Security) is so amazing, the Ilocano farmers did not only narrate their painful experiences, but they raised some puzzling questions: “why are we being oppressed? Are we living in democratic and civilized society? AS CONSTITUTIONALLY STATED, “NO PERSON SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW?” NASAAN ANG HUSTISYA? Isn’t it that in this country, no one is above the law? All must bow down to the rule of law? BAKIT RULE OF GUNS AND POWER ARE BEING EMPLOYED IN AMAI MANABILANG? AND SUCH TRAVESTY GETS THE SUPPORT OF THE PNP, AFP, THE LGU AND THE SPDA? BAKIT PO BA? ITO NABA ANG BAGONG MUKHA NG GOBYERNO NATIN NGAYON? Yan po ang aming mga katanungan at ngayon may biglang pagbabago dahil sa ginawa ni SEC. LEO MAGNO, na ipinahinto niya ang pag tractor ng aming mga tanim. If indeed, SPDA owns the 26,000 hectares of land in Wao and Amai Manabilang in total disregard of our prior right, we are willing no vacate but following the rule of law, NOT OF GUNS OR NOT THROUGH INSTILLING FEAR back-up by PNP & AFP whose mandate is to protect the people’s lives and properties and not of the interest of the oligarchs and foreign corporations.

Indeed, as exemplified by the amazing Presidential Assistant for Eastern Mindanao, “A public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must-at- all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. “To you Sec. Magno, our firm salute and warm embrace.”

It was the gallant stand of the Sumogot farmers not only in standing for their land but not to allow the transformation of their lands into massive plantations without their participation. Farming has been their way of life when their ancestors came as settlers in the 1950s and 60s that have provided their families basic needs, treating nature as like a “home.” For them, DEVELOPMENT must follow the declaration of the United Nations in promoting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). First, DEVELOPMENT must be ecologically sustainable. Second, it must be socially inclusive. Third, it must have people’s participation (as primary stakeholders, the people should first be consulted as it is for them that development is being pursued). If these criteria are not followed, no development can take place, only maldevelopment or development aggression. It is as if they are ordered to open their mouths, then so-called development is just rammed down into their throats, at their own expense. 

The amazing meeting with Sec. Leo Magno in Davo City that has heard the cries of the Sumogot farmers should now trailblazed the very essence of social justice as pronounced in the fundamental law which states that, “The State shall promote social justice in all phases of national development.” The Ilocano farmers were in tears in thanking Sec. Magno for ordering SPDA TO STOP THE ABUSIVE CORPORATIONS IN DAMAGING THEIR FARMS UNTIL PROFILING IS DONE TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE FARMERS HAVE ALREADY ACQUIRED PRIOR RIGHTS. But social justice calls for hearing the people’s cry and stand not to allow the massive usage of their land by foreign corporations to maximize consumer goods or profits. If that be the case, their stand is that, WE MUST NOT MAXIMIZE CONSUMER GOODS BUT MAXIMIZE OUR VALUES to live a different way of life, unfettered from unbridled materialism and consumerism but connected with the Unseen Being called God.

Indeed, the entry of foreign corporations in Amai Manabilang and in Wao should be studied very well which although done in the name of promoting AGRO-INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT may displace thousands of Filipinos just to accommodate foreign corporations to maximize consumer goods and not maximize values which is the imperative call of the times. Indeed, our land in Mindanao is for the Filipinos not for foreigners. Through our cooperative, we will harness our collective potentials not only to make our land productive but to go into value chain so that development can be pursued OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE, all for God’s greater glory!  

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