Update on the Calatagan Farmers’ Campaign
15 September 2008
While today would have been the first day of the walk of the Emancipation Patent holders (EP holders) amongst the Calatagan farmers, the farmers decided to postpone the walk for a week to give a chance to the negotiation that is being offered. Never before in the nego attempts was there an openness except these last few days when it became apparent that the farmers are serious in their campaign.
The Calatagan farmers were deprived of “aces” or cards courtesy of the government agencies that are supposed to protect their rights. DENR Secretary Lito Atienza issued a letter stating that the land is mineral while an MPSA cancellation is set to be decided upon by his office. In response, the DAR issued a memorandum saying that it could not cover the land because it is mineral albeit a Petition for CARP Coverage is at the Office of the DAR Secretary. As expected, DAR Secretary Pangandaman ruled not to cover under the agrarian reform program the contested 507-hectare agricultural land.
Thus, the farmers know that their only card is their title, their Emancipation Patents issued in 1989-1990, which they have fully paid for and from which they could till their awarded land. Aside from their vested rights, they also have social capital; they have each other and they could use this capital to show the public the injustices being done to them. In unison, they are determined to fight for their rights and for the environment that cement mining intends to destroy.
“What is a week to see if the negotiation might yield results?” asks Virgie Malaluan, the spokesperson of the Calatagan farmers.
But it does not mean that the farmers would not prepare for their campaign…
Despite the seeming breakthrough in their campaign, the Calatagan farmers are not relaxing in their preparation for their walk to Manila. In the two barangays, the processing of calls and “victories” are continuously being discussed, the logistics for the walk are being prepared for to its finest details. Even the makeshift stretcher is being tested to see if it could really carry a farmer. Moreover, the spiritual and psychological preparations are being undertaken. A vigil is set to be made everyday beginning Monday until the end of the week.
It does not mean that the support groups would not prepare for the farmers’ walk…
In preparation for the Calatagan farmers’ walk to Manila, the support groups are likewise preparing the fine prints of campaign. The route of the Manila leg is being set up in a way that the strategic destinations are reached while giving a chance for the farmers to visit the support groups who wish to accommodate them. The Daughters of Charity, for instance, already committed that whether the farmers would pass by SLEX or Coastal Road, their Provincial House in Paranaque or their hospital, the San Juan de Dios in Pasay, would be accommodating the Calatagan marchers. De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila also manifested their willingness to see the marchers through when they are already in Manila.
Calatagan week in Ateneo…
This week, September 15-19, is Calatagan week in the Ateneo de Manila campus. Today, Monday, ROOTS (Reaching for Opportunities to Serve), a student-based volunteer organization, launches a photo exhibit in two significant places in the University: the MVP building and the EDSA Walk. The exhibit showcases the photos taken by the volunteers who visited barangays baha and Talibayog in the last few months.
On Wednesday, 17 September, there would be a student workshop on Calatagan where the immersees, volunteers and students would be discussing their papers/testimonials on the case of the Calatagan farmers. Development Studies (DS) students would also be launching their own photo exhibit in the afternoon. On this day, pledge cards for donations would be distributed, campaign materials would be handed out, and the signature campaign for the Calatagan farmers would be launched.
The Ateneo students would also put up their “sako statements” on Wednesday. These are statements of support, one-liners, conceptualized by students that would be written on used sacks. These approximate the streamers on used sacks that are on the main road of Barangays Baha and Talibayog. The “sako statements” would be seen on the Ateneo “cages.”
On Friday, 19 September, a mini concert would be held in the campus where bands are set to sing solidarity songs for the farmers. The gigs would be led by Shuteyeview, Smoke my Cuban, and Juan Luna. There would also be a closing program and turn over of the exhibits.
For these efforts that warm their hearts, the farmers wish to thank the Ateneo de Manila community. They are grateful to the students, faculty, administrators, and Jesuit friends who have made their room to room meaningful and who put their efforts, day and night, to launch the Calatagan week in the University. The farmers insist on putting their organizations’ names one by one:
The DS students, Political Science students, ROOTS volunteers, Sanggu officers (student council) who have exerted efforts, despite their busy academic schedules, to make an exhibit, go to Calatagan, launch a forum, and do all sorts of initiatives to increase the level of awareness of the Ateneo community on the farmers’ case. The ASPAC, who pledged medicine support, lifts the farmers’ worry in regard to health care during the march. Truly, they are the backbone of this campaign.
Certainly, behind all these efforts are two organizations: the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) and the Office of Social Concern and Involvement (OSCI), the silent workers, the ones behind the curtain who lead this campaign in campus and amongst the religious.
The farmers also wish to thank the church and the religious who manifested their support during the past week: Bishop Broderick Pabillo of NASSA and the Archdiocese of Manila celebrated a Holy Mass on 4 September in Calatagan. Sr. Victricia Pascasio, S.Sp.S visited the area and listened to the farmers’ stories yesterday, 14 September, along with Atty. Melanie Pimentel of the OSG. Sr. Vic, the farmers’ noted, is the first nun ever to have visited them.
The farmers likewise thank the Daughters of Charity, De La Salle University, and the various agrarian reform groups most especially the Partnership for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Services (PARRDS) for their help and commitment. As always, they insist thanking CARET who is always with them, KAISAHAN, and Akbayan.