• GENUINE LAND REFORM AND COCO FUND RETURN

    Adopt peasants’ agenda, presidential bets dared

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    THE left-leaning Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Wednesday dared presidential aspirants and other candidates to embrace its “Peasants Electoral Agenda” that includes free land distribution and return of the multibillion coconut levy fund to farmers.

    The challenge was raised by KMP in a candidates’ forum dubbed as “The Peasant Challenge 2016 and Beyond” organized by the Philippine Land Reform Movement and the Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Patria) that was attended by Davao City mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte, reelectionist Sen. Vicente Sotto 3rd and senatorial candidates Isko Moreno and Neri Colmenares.

    “Landlord monopoly and peasants’ landlessness, denial of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers, agricultural trade liberalization and militarization, among others, are the main causes of farmers’ suffering. Addressing these problems is a major challenge to all aspirants in the 2016 elections,” Rafael Mariano, the group’s chairman, said.

    Mariano maintained that the biggest challenge to all candidates is the free distribution of vast estates owned by big landlords like Hacienda Luisita owned and controlled by the Cojuangcos and Aquinos, vast haciendas in Negros owned by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., Araneta Estate in Bulacan and Rizal provinces owned by the relatives of Manuel Roxas 2nd and plantations controlled by foreign transnational corporations, among others.

    Roxas is the standard-bearer of the administration party in the May 2016 elections.

    KMP secretary general Antonio Flores expressed dismay over non-attendance of other invited presidential hopefuls and candidates.

    “The absence of these candidates clearly demonstrates their lack of interest in the agrarian reform question. Genuine agrarian reform is not only for the peasantry but for the entire Filipino people. Genuine agrarian reform is about economic development, social justice and a just and lasting peace,” Flores said.

    “While they have their own excuses for their absence, the non-attendance of the invited candidates could be taken as either a political snub or an outright rejection of the Filipino peasantry’s just and legitimate demands,” he added.

    Last January 22, the 29th year of the infamous Mendiola Massacre, the KMP challenged three presidential frontrunners Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Grace Poe and Duterte to distribute Hacienda Luisita and Araneta Estate.

    Mariano said, “The failure of these presidential hopefuls to declare and implement the genuine distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other plantations makes them no different from the current haciendero government of Aquino.”

    “The distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other vast haciendas remains as a litmus test to presidential wannabes,” the peasant leader added.

    “We challenge them to reverse the DAR’s [Department of Agrarian Reform] fake distribution scheme that was designed to displace the farm workers and divide their ranks,” Mariano said.

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