The Sumilao Farmers quest for land and justice has brought them to the nation’s capital. Their 1,700 kilometer walk from their homes in Sumilao, Bukidnon to Manila is about to end but will their quest for land finally end? Mahaba ang kanilang naging paglalakbay, mahaba at puno ng paghihirap. Ito ay kagaya rin ng kanilang naging karanasan sa pakikibaka para sa lupa – mahirap at mahaba. Before they endured the 1,70-kilometer walk, they have already endured a 28-day hunger strike in 1997 and more than a decade of injustices and betrayals from the government.
I am often asked why these farmers had to make this long and difficult journey. Pwede naman daw maghintay sa DAR, pwede naman daw mag petition. Pwede naman daw mag file ng kaso at magpicket sa DAR. Bakit kinakailangan pang magpakahirap na lumakad ng ganung kalayo?
In the last 15 years or so they have done all of that and more. They have petitioned the DAR, the Office of the President, the Supreme Court and several others. They have also filed cases supporting their claim over the land. In fact they have already become owners of that land. They have waited and not only waited passively but they have shown their interest and they have shown their will to be productive farmers. All throughout their struggle they came at loggerheads with the very system that keeps many of the farmers poor – a government that pays lip service to agrarian reform and lacks the political will to pursue social justice, a judiciary that becomes a stickler for technicalities in defense of the interests of the propertied elite but who turns blind when it is the rich and the government that violates the rules and its own laws.
What choice is left to these ordinary poor farmers? Where do they turn to? What more can they do to finally earn a just resolution to their plight?
Faced with the same circumstances, many will lose heart and lose hope. Some will take up arms against the government. But the Sumilao farmers are different – they seek what they can do in meaningful and peaceful ways. Ten years ago they deprived themselves of food to make their plight so scandalous to be ignored. Today, they trust their feet to take them through this long and difficult walk to Manila.
What have they accomplished with their walk? Hmmm well plenty. They have created enough public sentiment to force the Office of the President to overturn its decision and remand the case to the Department of Agrarian Reform. They have gained the support of the public – the parishioners of the churches that hosted them along the way, the support of many groups and institutions, they ordinary motorists who honked their horns in support, the ordinary farmers who gave them rice and other foodstuff along the way.
With this sacrifice, the Sumilao farmers once again proved that they have moral and legal rights to the land. Now it is up to the government to recognize these rights. Does the government have what it takes to go against the interests of one of the richest companies in the Philippines – San Miguel Corp. – to uphold these rights? This remains to be seen.
How can people support them? There are several ways.
- Visit them and extend your support. They will be staying overnight at the following places in the next few days: Ateneo de Manila, Loyola Hts., Quezon City (Dec. 5) and in front of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform, Elliptical Road, Quezon City (Dec. 6). Join us in our solidarity walk / torch parade around the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Dec. 6 (Thursday) at around 6pm and the solidarity night that will follow.
- Sign this online petition for their cause : Online Petition for the Sumilao Farmers
- Post the picture below on your sidebar
The Sumilao farmers have travelled far and now they are knocking at our doors. Can we do these simple things for them? For those who wish to visit the farmers and join them for a few kilometers you can reach me at this number: +639276409726 for details. Maraming salamat.
P.S. Finally they have hit the front page despite the media attention over the Manila Pen stand-off. Mabuhay kayo mga kasama!