[OPINION] Who will feed the farmers?

Karen Bautista

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[OPINION] Who will feed the farmers?
'This is not the first massacre of farmers in Philippine history. Filipino farmers have long fought for genuine agrarian reforms... They ask for land, not bullets.'

It has always been red.

Nine farmers, including women and children, were killed at Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on October 20. The murdered farmers were organized agricultural sugar workers. They held ‘bungkalan’ earlier that day and were resting when they were gunned down. According to reports, one of them had bullets amounting to a magazine of M-16 in his head; 3 had their bodies burned by the assailants. 

The Philippine Army tagged the peasants involved in the ‘bungkalan’ in Negros as supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), its armed wing, earlier this year.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) states that the ‘bungkalan’ is the farmers’ way to feed their families now that it is Tiempo Muerto or dead season of the sugar industry. Until now, a number of their land cultivation areas are lands under agrarian reform that remain undistributed. (READ: [OPINION]: Is agrarian reform a dying issue?

A total of 172 peasants have been killed in the Duterte administration.


Seven out of 10 farmers do not have their own land, according to the data of National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates- Network (NNARA Youth). There are agrarian reforms on paper that remain only partially executed. In addition to having no own land to till, farmers also suffer from a backward way of farming that uses a manual process or rental of tools and equipment from landlords for a high price. Agricultural sugar workers are said to earn an average of P500-P750 weekly.

It’s ironic how the Philippines is an agricultural country yet we import rice and our farmers are poor. Agriculture is a determining factor of the success of industry yet the system remains feudal. (READ: What if our farmers give up on us?)

Who’s accountable?

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said in a press briefing that one of the angles they are looking at is the NPA doing a killing spree to put the blame on the government and gather empathy from the people. The state forces labelled the agricultural sugar workers as NPA before and now they pinpoint the massacre as the act of the same armed group.

Another angle is the landlord hiring private goons to kill the tillers since some people claim that Hacienda Nene is not part of the coverage of agrarian reform. Whether a hacienda is covered by the reform or not, no landlord should justify killing farmers occupying it.

Malacanang said that officials assured those behind the barbarous deed would be punished. Various groups demand justice and accountability. (READ: ‘Nakakagalit, nakakagimbal’: Netizens decry death of 9 farmers in Negros Occidental

One thing is clear: people are comfortable with legitimacy. Many people are not likely to support the revolutionary government just because of one government’s wrongdoing. People dissent when they see something is wrong. People rebel because of systemic oppression and long-term clamor that remain unheard. 

The PNP claimed that the communists are plotting Duterte’s ouster this October, which they later said was postponed to December. Coincidentally, farmer groups celebrate October as “Peasants’ Month”. (READ: [OPINION]: The hunt for ‘Red October’)

With the recent happenings, we can see that October is red not because of a rebel insurgency but because of the blood of the peasants brutally killed. More than that, the country has been under a bloodbath since the start of the current administration, when extrajudicial killings have become widespread and severe, like a de facto death penalty. 

This is not the first massacre of farmers in Philippine history. Filipino farmers have long fought for genuine agrarian reform. Up until now, their struggle is for their sectoral interest to be uplifted. 

Most of the 172 peasants killed in this administration were organized.

They asked for land, not bullets. –

Karen C. Bautista is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas Senior High School and a BA Political Science freshman at the University of the Philippines Manila. She is part of the national secretariat of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.

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