IBON denounces the violence repeatedly wreaked by goons of the landgrabbing Araneta Properties, Inc. against the farmers of San Jose Del Monte (SJDM), Bulacan. The farmers of Lupang Teresa are IBON’s partners in land cultivation (Bungkalan) and marketing efforts (Bagsakan) to improve their livelihood. They have every right to till the land and to return to their homes and farms unhindered.
The recent illegal demolition and attacks against the SJDM farmers are gross violations of their rights and food sovereignty. The fact finding mission (FFM) conducted to document and report the previous demolition of four Lupang Teresa farmers’ houses was violently disrupted when Araneta goons showed up and indiscriminately fired at, harassed, manhandled and looted the farmers and volunteers.
These attacks against the SJDM farmers were not the first. Without even a single title to show, the Aranetas have been coveting the farmers’ lands for decades and harassing the communities with their paid security guards. Araneta Properties, Inc. is owned by Gregorio Maria Araneta III, the spouse of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s daughter Irene. He is also the brother of Louise Araneta, wife of Marcos Sr.’s son, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The farmers have stood their ground and asserted their right to land that they have cultivated organically and collectively through the Bungkalan for many years. The rich agricultural land of Barangays San Roque, San Isidro, and Tungkong Mangga produces tons of vegetables, fruits, and root crops that the farmers bring to SJDM and other municipalities in Bulacan and Metro Manila.
The SJDM farmers actively participate in Bagsakans where consumers directly purchase from farmers at reasonable prices without middlemen. They also generously contribute to community pantries in pandemic- and calamity- stricken areas and urban poor communities, as well as to other marginalized groups.
But the Aranetas have been unrelenting in their schemes to drive the farmers away. This is a warning of worse things to come should the Marcoses return to power where the Aranetas and their ilk will abuse the government’s authority and resources for their landgrabbing schemes. Human rights violations are bound to escalate in the name of more land and power for big business.
Government inaction in the face of the attacks against farmers is consistent with its decades-long neglect of Filipino farmers and the Philippine agriculture sector. The government must be held accountable for failing to address the wrongs done against the SJDM farmers and Philippine agriculture and producers as a whole. There must be real agrarian reform.
Instead of being attacked, SJDM farmers and other organic Filipino planters should be supported and promoted for practicing agroecological ways of farming and living. These have fairly benefited communities and shown us the path to a sustainable future that can be enjoyed by the majority.