CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Sumilao farmers from Mindanao arrived in Cebu City on Friday, April 22, to campaign for vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo and to show solidarity with drought protesters in Kidapawan City.
Twelve farmers who came from Sumilao and 14 others are from Valencia and San Fernando, Bukidnon, Bugsuk Island of Palawan, and Casiguran, Aurora joined the march this morning across the city, their 8th stop on the journey to Manila.
“Among ginamentenar ang among 94 hectares nga among gi-communal farms sa Panaw…naa mi elf (forwarding) services…naa mi solar dryer, mechanical dryer, naa dayon mi P2 million nga gihatag sa amo sa DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), among gipaloan…sa among mga 163 ka miyembro.” said Cheril Lorenza, chairperson of Panaw Sumilao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PSMPC).
Lorenza said that they generated an income of around P1 million, and this amount helped them in funding their campaign for Leni.
In 1997, Higaonon farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon, held a 28-day hunger strike to reclaim their 144-hectare ancestral land. Almost a decade later, they traveled 1,700 km from Bukidnon to Malacañang to fight for their land. The 2007 march gained wide public support.
Leni Robredo and her late husband, former Department of Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse, were among those who helped the Sumilao farmers to regain their land.
Robredo, who was a human rights lawyer before she entered politics, defended the Sumilao farmers as part of her work with the non-governmental legal group Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan). She was also among the advocates who welcomed the protesting farmers when they reached Naga.
In solidarity with Kidapawan farmers
According to the Sumilao farmers, their march also seeks to draw the attention of the government to the plight of the farmers affected by the El Niño.
“Gusto namo ma-istorya sa tibuok Pilipinas kung unsay diay matagaan ug bili ug dunog ang tingog sa mga mag-uuma labi ngyud diha sa pagdala niini sa kagamhanan sa atong gobyerno,” said Noland Peñas, spokesperson of the Sumilao Farmers.
(We want to share with the entire Philippines that farmers should be valued and their voices should be heard especially when they voice out their concerns to authorities.)
Peñas, son of a core member of the Sumilao farmers’ organization, expressed his sympathies to the families of the protesters in Kidapawan City who lost their loved ones. He said that the drought protest also inspired them to help raise their fellow farmers’ issues.
“Una gipaabot namo ang among pagkigduyog ug pakigtimabayayong sa mga nawad-an ug pamilya (Firstly, we want to extend our sympathies to those who lost their relatives),” said Peñas.
Peñas continued: “Gigutum ang mga mag-uuma pero gisuklian ug dahas nga pamaagi ug duna gyuy nakalas ug duna gyuy nasamdan…Hingpit ang among pagpanawagan nga duna gyuy manubag ug duna gyuy imbestigasyon nga mahitabo.” (The farmers were hungry but they were met with violence, and some of them got killed and injured. We strongly call for an investigation, for accountability.)
Penas said he’s frustrated about what happened in Kidapawan: “Tungod kay nakit-an namo, nga ang mag-uuma nga mao untay nag-siguro nga dunay pagkaon ang pamilyang Pilipino nga saluhan, siya na hinuoy nawad-an ug ginabutang sa iyang lamesa aron saluhan sa iyang pamilya.” (It showed us that while farmers are the ones who secure food for Filipino families, they are the ones who have no food to put on the table.)
Robredo has earlier called on the government and civil society organizations to prioritize the plight of the farmers. (READ: Robredo: Farmers first, finger-pointing later)
After standing under the heat of the sun for 3 days straight, the Kidapawan protest turned into a bloody clash that left at least two farmers dead and at least 116 others wounded.
The Sumilao farmers kicked off their caravan on April 15 in Sumilao, Bukidnon, seeking to travel over 3,700 km via trucks and ferries across the country.
Cebu is their 8th stop . The caravan traveled through other cities in Cebu including Talisay, Minglanilla, Carcar, San Fernando, and Naga before they head to Ormoc, Leyte.
On April 30, they plan to be in Naga City, the vice presidential bet’s hometown. Their last stop will be in Metro Manila from May 6 to 7. May 7 will also be Robredo’s miting de avance. – Rappler.com
Paulo Andrada is one of Rappler’s interns and Movers in Cebu City.
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