Stop militarizing farm communities; support green producers–IBON

June 22, 2024

by IBON Foundation

Research group IBON condemned the recent attack by military and police forces against Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Ronnie Manalo, a farmer of Barangay San Roque, San Jose Del Monte (SJDM), Bulacan. The group said that the government should be held accountable for this and the long-standing militarization of SJDM farming communities that undermines not just the right to till but also the right to food security.

On Tuesday, troopers from the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police Special Action Force reportedly ransacked and illegally searched Manalo’s then unoccupied house. They consequently reported finding a gun inside which is suspected to have been planted. KMP said that this unconscionable practice of state forces may be a prelude to fabricated charges against Manalo.

Manalo and fellow community members in San Roque and adjacent SJDM barangays are among IBON’s partners in land cultivation (Bungkalan) and marketing efforts (Bagsakan). These aim to help improve their livelihood and provide platforms where consumers can directly avail of the farmers’ produce at prices that benefit both. IBON said that this is in line with the farmers’ assertion of their right to till and freedom to determine what to produce on land that they have made productive for decades.  SJDM farmers’ produce consisting of vegetables, fruits, and root crops have served so many community pantries and kitchens during and after the pandemic, and fed various municipalities in Bulacan and Metro Manila.

The raid of Manalo’s home is just the latest in a spate of attacks against the SJDM farmers.  For years, farmers’ communities in Barangays San Roque, San Isidro and Tungkong Mangga have been harassed by patrolling state forces or private goons of Araneta Properties, Inc. The firm is owned by Greggy Araneta, the brother of First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos and son-in-law of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The Aranetas are among the landlord clans that have long-coveted the lands of San Jose del Monte for their commercial pursuits.

The Marcos government has claimed to be a champion of farmers. Yet on the ground, farmers’ clamor for land reform and production support seems to be a non-priority of the administration, said IBON. The attacks on Manalo and the SJDM farmers also belong to a nationwide record of big landlord and state-perpetrated harassment, abductions, killings, and other assaults against peasants.

IBON echoes calls demanding the stop to the militarization of communities, and government accountability in the attacks against Filipino farmers. Our green producers deserve no less than to be fully cherished and supported for their basic and most important role in bringing food to every table, said the group.