We will fight for our dignity

Statement of the BTL Farmers Association

20 July 2016

 

We, from the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus Farmers’ Association, are facing an endless threat to our survival.

We have confronted a complicated road in more than three decades already. We were failed by the supreme court, we were failed by the Ombudsman; we were slapped with trumped-up charges; our leader, killed; strafed like animals while tilling our lands…All of these, we cannot, and will not, forget as dark chapters of our history of struggle to own the land we have fought for so long.

But we will not back down. We will sustain all the hardships and sacrifices to own this land—which is our life.

Today, as we relaunch our campaign, we are firm standing and calling for the following:

First, to President Duterte, to demonstrate his concern for the peasants, we are requesting him to put under genuine land reform the 400 hectares of land we are currently tilling inside the CMU.

Second, we will not leave the lands despite supreme court order that these are for ‘scientific and educational purposes’. CMU’s historical and actual use of the land says otherwise. CMU officials themselves declared for various times on various occasions that they will lease the lands to multi-national plantations such as Del Monte and Davao Agricultural Ventures (DAVCO)—things that go against the ‘educational and scientific’ use of these lands as mandated by the supreme court. The moment they lease these to the aforementioned companies, these will again become inalienable and disposable—thus, should be distributed to the farmers.

Third, if it is true that CMU will get back the lands to make this as an ‘experimental farming field’ for educational purposes, instead of ejecting us, they can make us as ‘partners’ to develop these lands and the system of farming. We will even help make productive and meaningful the education of the CMU students learning from our actual ways of developing these lands through all these years.

Fourth, we understand that CMU should install ‘income-generating projects’ due to budget cuts to education imposed by the government to state universities. We believe that budget cuts is unjust at the backdrop of big beaurucratic corruption such as the ‘pork barrel’ scandal. Cutting the budgets intended for education will compromise the quality of education our youth and students deserve. But we should not pit the farmers’ right to our lands against the students’ right to education. Thus, we are calling the national government to stop the budget cuts and give CMU its rightful budget for its own use and development—so as not to pressure the university administration to do income-generating projects, at our expense.

Today, many of our community members are journeying to Manila—with the more than 5,000 others from various parts of Mindanao—to assert these calls during the State of the Nation Address of the new president. This October, we will also reverberate these calls via a big mobilization to Cagayan de Oro City in time of the Peasant Month. And finally for this year, we will journey again to Manila for the Manilakbayan 2016 to meet President Duterte in a dialogue, hoping that he will heed our call.

We pay gratitude to the public, locally and internationally, who journeyed with us through all these years for this just campaign. We are hoping for your continued support in these very trying times.

We reiterate: We are human. We need to eat. We need to send our children to school. We need to give medication to the sick members of our family. Thus, we need to till. If you rob us of our lands, this means death to us. And if we will not fight, we will die a dishonorable death.

Thus, we are resolved to carry on the fight. We will fight for our rights. We will fight for our dignity. ###

 

[This piece is a translated version of the statement of BTL farmers originally written in Bisaya. In the photo above is Winnie Loable, chairperson of the BTL Farmers’ Association]

 

Solidarity statements, downloadable below:

Gabriela Seattle

Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites