Peasant killings under Duterte now at 91
◢ Juan Gregorio Lina
Peasant killings continue to rise under President Rodrigo Duterte’s watch. Latest data from human rights group Karapatan places the number killed at 91 as of September this year.
This figure includes peasant-leaders as well as land reform advocates, and comprises the bulk of the 98 politically motivated killings recorded by the group since July 2016. The brutal killings involve various groups, including private armies of landlords, police personnel, military servicemen, and paramilitary soldiers being tagged as perpetrators.
“Ang mga magsasaka ay pinapatay ng mga riding-in-tandem, inaabangan sa labas ng bahay o nilolooban ang tahanan, at pinapatay sa harap ng mga kamag-anak. Pati na rin ang mga mag-asawang lider-magsasaka pinapaslang,” said Mao Hermitanio of peasant group Kilusang Mangbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
The murders are the government’s response to the farmers’ assertion of their right to the lands, Hermitanio said, also adding that the fight for genuine land reform shall continue despite landowners not giving in to the peasants’ calls.
The Department of National Defense, on the other hand, denied the occurrence of the killings in an inter-agency dialogue on October 19 spearheaded by the National Anti-Poverty Commission, despite being presented comprehensive documentation of the slays.
Reacting to the killings, Karapatan condemned the Duterte administration’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan for “wreaking havoc in rural areas.” The human rights group stressed that the program labels peasant communities and their leaders as enemies of the state—a policy no different from that of previous administrations.
“This is not a new trend because Duterte is a mere rusty, old, and rambling replica of past regimes. His policies have yielded the same results, albeit with increasing frequency and brutality,” said Karapatan Secretary General Christina Palabay in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo staged a nine-day caravan which lasted until October 25 in protest of the killings, and to continue the advocacy for genuine agrarian reform.
“Nasa sama-samang pagkilos ang paggigiit ng karapatan sa lupa, lalo na ngayong walang batas ang gobyernong Duterte para sa tunay na agraryong reporma at na-reject pa si Ka Paeng Mariano, Wala nang ibang maaasahan ang mga magsasaka kundi ang kanilang sarili,” Hermitanio said. ◢
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