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Agrarian Violence in the Philippines Worsens

FORWARD | 19.05.2006 10:48 | Repression | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

A peasant leader in the Philippines was killed, following a spate of violence against activists and journalists. As political instablility heightens, the government appears unable to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice, and there is genuine fear amongst social activists that this situation will escalate.

Another peasant leader, Mario Domingo, was killed on Wednesday in Negros Occidental, Philippines. Domingo, leader of Task Force Mapalad, was shot during a discussion with workers of a landowner who had entered onto a farm lot already awarded to Task Force Mapalad beneficiaries. Domingo's death follows last month's assassination of Ka Eric Cabanit, leader of national peasant organisation UNORKA. After attending a dialogue with the Department of Agrarian Refom, Cabanit was gunned down in the public market of Panabo City, Mindanao. His daughter was critically injured. Cabanit was at the forefront of the struggle
to redistribute land to the 8,000 workers of the Floirendo family plantations.

"His active role in the campaign to place [under agrarian reform] all landholdings of the banana magnate Antonio Floirendo is, we believe, the reason he was mercilessly killed," Dong Calmada of the PEACE Foundation, Inc. said. "When he was still alive, Ka Eric told us that he had received threats from the plantation. Likewise, his house had been under surveillance two weeks before his murder," he added

Since 1988, all agriculatural lands over five hectares should be acquired by government for redistribution to landless peasants. Landowners have, however, resisted implementation of the law through legal and illegal means.

The present failure of the government to protect its citizens from violence reflects its incapacity to let the rule of law prevail. The Presidency supported the US invasion of Iraq, allegedly cheated during the 2004 elections, and even with the loss of political ascendancy still clings to power. There is genuine fear amongst social activists that this violence will escalate.

Other recent victims of agrarian-related violence include Vicente B. Denila, Rico Adeva, and Porferio Maglasang.

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