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THE TYRANT DENIES THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO JUST AND LASTING PEACE

in Countercurrent

 

by Leon Castro

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte announced last August 14 that he has terminated the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). It came weeks after he, his spokesperson, and his peace adviser separately declared again suspending the peace negotiations. There was a need, the GRP said, to review the achievements of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, including all agreements between both parties since 1992 when The Hagu e Joint Declaration was signed.

“I have terminated the talks with the Reds—with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), with Sison—because in the series of agreements before, even [during] the time of [GRP President Benigno] Aquino, they entered into so many things that they scattered the privileges and power which they wanted,” Duterte said in his usual rambling way. We summed it all and it would really appear that it was a coalition government [they wanted] and I said, “I cannot give you an inch of that even. I cannot give you what is not mine,” Duterte added.

Duterte went on to declare yet again that his government would instead resume the fight against the revolutionary movement. “We have suffered and—in numbers. And I think it would not be good [to continue with the peace process]. We will just have to continue fighting,” he added.

Duterte’s latest announcement of the termination of the peace process is actually nonnews, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison said. Sison explained it was not the first time Duterte terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. The first time was actually in February 2017, as he again did on November 2017 with his Proclamation 360 that he followed with Proclamation 374 accusing the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist” organizations. Sison said Duterte’s proclamations had the malicious intent of making doubly sure that he had killed the peace negotiations.

Either Duterte was lying or ignorant of what he was saying. There had only been one formal round of talks throughout the Aquino regime and the agreements signed in The Oslo Joint Statement of February 2011 the reactionary government tried to abrogate with full malevolent intent. In addition, Prof. Sison had repeatedly denied the NDFP asked or wanted a coalition government with Duterte’s own murderous regime.

But beyond Duterte’s unfounded accusations that the NPA—and not his bloodthirsty military and police—is on a rampage in both rural and urban areas, the question of why is he bent on throwing away the substantial gains achieved by the peace negotiations with the NDFP begs to be asked. If he claims his regime is suffering from the attacks by the NPA, why would he think that to continue fighting with the revolutionary army is the best and only solution? If he still claims he is for peace and development, why can he not admit that agrarian reform and national industrialization—prospective agreements of which are already submitted to him by his own peace negotiators for approval—are tangible efforts to addressing the roots of the armed conflict?

TYRANT AND DICTATOR

GRP President Duterte has completely unmasked himself and his regime as a tyrant and dictator in the mold of Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Duterte made a complete turnaround from proclaiming himself as the country’s first “leftist” president to being the chief executive of a cabal that rules through terror, tyranny, and corruption. His Senate is presided by, like him, a misogynist. His Speaker of the House of Representatives—manouvered into place by his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte—is herself a tyrant, cheat, plunderer and human rights violator of the worst kind. He has replaced the Supreme Court Chief Justice with one who has voted to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Members of his own personal and official families are involved in smuggling, graft and corruption, and influence-peddling. They have lifestyles that could rival Imelda Marcos’s. Recently, investigative reports have shown that Christopher “Bong” Go has profited billions in government contracts as his most trusted assistant and operator.

The number of extrajudicial killing victims of Duterte’s drug war, mostly poor, has breached 20,000. The reign of terror remains unabated despite increasing opposition and condemnation in the Philippines and abroad. Despite all these deaths, Duterte’s so-called war has only succeeded in allowing tons of illegal drugs into the country while bigtime drug lords, including presidential son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, remain at large or are being exonerated publicly by no less that Duterte himself.

Like his idols Marcos and Arroyo, Duterte is succeeding in running the country’s economy to the ground. From the get-go, Duterte’s anti-people Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) measure caused inflation rates that overtook so-called growth rates and hit 6.4 percent last August. While the Philippine Peso lingers at around P53 to P54 to the US dollar, hot money from the speculative market is leaving the country, making the Philippines one of the worst performing economies in the world. The country’s foreign debt has also increased dramatically under Duterte and has gone beyond P7 trillion. As a result of all these, oil prices and prices of basic commodities have drastically gone up and continued to do so, angering more and more Filipinos. Duterte’s approval rating has also consistently taken a dive since the start of the year, one that could no longer be fixed by his totally discredited propaganda machine.

Meanwhile, poverty alleviation measures promised by Duterte the presidential candidate and Duterte the newly-installed president were exposed to be nothing but hot air and lies. Labor contractualization remains the main mode of employment for workers while genuine agrarian reform is still a dream under his regime.

But are these developments really surprising, more so that no one among the NDFP-nominated progressives remained in Duterte’s Cabinet while the most reactionary disciples of neo-liberalization are still well-entrenched? Barely a year after progressives were rejected by the Commission on Appointments, corrupt practices have returned with a vengeance at the Department of Social Work and Development at the behest of corrupt politicians across the street at the House of Representatives. At the Department of Agrarian Reform, more and more agricultural lands are being handed to landlords and land grabbers. And more than a year after the National Anti-Poverty Commission has published a progressive anti-poverty roadmap, not a single recommendation is being implemented.

In the absence of honest to goodness pro-people policies and programs by the Duterte government, the NDFP-GRP peace process was among the very few avenues for genuine social change. Alas, Duterte is determined to deny the people their right to just and lasting peace.

NATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZATION AND AGRARIAN REFORM

Last June 16, the NDFP released backchannel documents it crafted with the GRP Negotiating Panel. The documents represented weeks of hard work not just by the NDFP and its consultants and resource persons but the GRP Negotiating Panel, advisers and staff, not to mention the Third Party Facilitator, The Royal Norwegian Government. These consisted of The Stand-Down Agreement; Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement, and the Resumption of Talks, with an attached timetable; The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement; and, The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation, which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator. These documents were all ready for approval by both panels on the fifth round of formal talks last June 28. Four rounds of informal talks throughout April to June 2018 preceded the scheduled formal in June.

The “Stand Down Agreement”—a temporary cessation of hostilities—between the NDFP and the GRP, was in fact signed and approved by the chairpersons of the negotiating panels and witnessed by the Third Party Facilitator. It was due for announcement and implementation on June 21, a week before the formal talks.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiation has been postponed, canceled, and terminated by Duterte several times. Duterte thinks nothing of the hard work by everyone involved in crafting agreements already hailed as real solutions to the worst evils of Philippine society: poverty, corruption, and subservience to foreign interests. Instead of signing the initialed drafts of agrarian reform and rural development, as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements, he listened to militarists in his regime—especially defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and interior and local government and interior secretary Eduardo Año—who were all bred during the last years of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and wantonly let loose upon the people during Gloria Arroyo’s own reign of terror. With bloodthirsty officials like these three as his most trusted hatchet men, is it surprising that Duterte’s way of addressing the roots of the armed conflict in this country is heightened fascism and terrorism?

The NDFP and all its allied revolutionary organizations, led by the CPP and the NPA, on the other hand, said they condemn how Duterte waylaid the peace process. While they are not intimidated by Duterte’s bluster and threats and are ready to continue defending the Filipino people, they have expressed willingness to resume peace negotiations with any reactionary government serious in negotiating basic reforms that address the roots of the armed conflict. The NDFP said it is hopeful that a genuine peace negotiation shall contribute to the liberation of the Filipino people from the bondage of poverty, neglect and plunder by foreign and local ruling elite.

Perhaps Duterte is not ready to admit the NDFP’s seriousness and sincerity in negotiating peace. Perhaps he was surprised when he was shown by his own negotiating panel that the NDFP has initialed national industrialization and economic development as well as agrarian reform and rural development draft agreements. Perhaps he himself was not ready to implement peace even when the NDFP publicly announced it is ready to sign a stand down agreement between the NPA and the AFP and PNP, even an interim peace agreement deal. Perhaps Duterte was not really sincere when he promised he would release all political prisoners. Whatever the case may be, his repeated pronouncements to terminate the negotiations defy logic if he really wanted peace.

The question begs to be asked and asked loudly, “Why is Duterte afraid of peace?”

But, then again, is peace possible with a tyrant?

Breaking Away from the Usurious Farm Traders

in Mainstream
by Priscilla de Guzman

The road leading to the village was mostly rough and muddy, with a few meters of cemented portion after every few kilometers. Where there was a cemented road, harvested corn crops were spread over it on plastic sheets to dry under the sun.

“You were lucky, kadua (comrade in the Ilokano language),” Ka Efren told me as he expertly maneuvered his motorcycle through the muddy parts of the road. “It has been raining for weeks. The rain stopped only two days ago, he said.

Ka Efren’s community occupies a public land, a forested area, where titling is not allowed by the government. However, some enterprising local government officials and trader-usurers have been able to acquire land titles through sheer bribery. The public lands have been home to most of the farmers, such as Ka Efren, since birth.

As we passed through another batch of harvested corn being dried, Ka Efren muttered how low the prices that the traders pay for their produce. “I don’t know how much I’ll earn this harvest season, our corn harvest was not properly dried because of the rains,” he lamented.

Embracing victory

Ka Jong, the other motorcycle driver, quickly reminded Ka Efren that, just two days ago after the rains had stopped, a farmers’ organization in a Cagayan Valley municipality won its battle against the usurious traders. The good news, he said, had spread like fire in the neighboring communities, towns, and even in other provinces in the region. Ka Efren’s face immediately lit up. Yes, he suddenly remembered.

Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid

We arrived at the community where the farmers had gathered as members of a local chapter of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka or PKM (National Peasants Association), one of the founding member-organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines [NDFP]). They were exultant over the victory of the mass action-cum-dialogue with the traders—a victory won through a militant show of unity in demanding that the traders pay justly for the farmers’ produce and do away with their usurious practices.

The peasant leaders who joined them can understandably claim much of the credit for the triumph. They were fired up in narrating their collective action, what they had gone through before they achieved victory. They took turns in pointing out how they had been exploited by the trader-usurers. The latter had monopoly and control of everything the farmers needed from planting to harvesting. They also dictated the prices of their corn and cassava produce. It had been a full cycle of exploitation.

The peasant organization’s victory of getting a fair shake from the traders meant the following: reduced interest rates on their loans, higher selling prices for corn and cassava crops, reduced prices of the sacks used in packing their produce, and a reprieve from interest payments they had incurred during the super typhoon Lawin that hit the region in 2016.

Monopoly of the traders

For a long time, loans and interest payments had chained the farmers to the trader-usurers. Without capital to buy seedlings of their choice, the farmers were compelled to plant BT-corn and cassava for cash crops used as animal feeds.

The seedlings were sourced as loans from the traders, who also provided them with fertilizers and herbicides as loans. During harvest, these same traders bought the farmers’ produce at a price they practically dictated, based on their own grading and weighing systems—wherein trickery was usually employed. After the harvest, the farmers ended up practically with nothing in their pockets, or worse, with another sheet of paper where their additional loans and interest payments were listed down.

Most atrocious was the trading of sacks used to pack the harvests. The farmers buy the sacks at Php10.00 each from the local traders who bought these for Php5.00. Per harvest, they have to buy 300 sacks costing Php3,000. The farmers use the sacks to bring their produce to the local traders who, in turn, use these when they sell to the buying stations. These sacks were never returned to the farmers. Thus, when another planting-harvest season starts, the farmers would again spend for the sacks.

Cagayan Valley is the country’s top producer of BT-corn, with genetically modified organisms (GMO), and farmers like Ka Ludy and many others in his community had contributed much to its propagation, at their expense.

The Department of Agriculture introduced the BT-corn in the early 2000 but the people widely rejected it. Not long after the trader-usurers were acting as aggressive conduits for its propagation, leaving no choice for the penniless peasants but to accept, as BT-corn was the only available seedling the traders would loan to them.

“It’s as if the traders got to hire planters and laborers without salaries,” said Ka Ludy. There was a time, when there was no available food for them, some farmers tried to eat BT-corn to find out if it was fit for human consumption. Result: they developed allergies.

Breaking away from the traders

Energized by the recent victory of the farmers, the PKM members are more determined to go on with the plans they had laid out during the AgRev (Agrarian Revolution) conference held in the last quarter of 2017. The conference was a joint project by local members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the various revolutionary mass organizations in the guerrilla front.

During the conference, the peasants resolved to vigorously push for the palit tanim (literally, changing plants) campaign. As an initial step, the PKM collectives in the different villages would start planting food crops to ensure food on their tables as they moved to break away from the trader-usurers’ dictates.

“The seedlings were donated to us by friends and we will divide these among the collectives in the different villages,” Ka Ludy explained. With a steady supply of food on their tables, the farmers can then start planting cash crops of their choice, sell directly in the market individually or collectively, and earn what they have worked for.

“In the long run, this will allow us to do away with the seedlings supplied by the traders and gain freedom from their monopoly and exploitation,” he said.

Land distribution and communal farms

The 2017 AgRev conference was the first held in this guerrilla front after more than a decade. In the conference, the revolutionary organizations also lined up plans on maximizing the utilization of idle lands in their communities and those nearby. The local Party and NPA units and the PKM plan to distribute some 50 hectares of land among the 30 poorest peasant families.

“The comrades in the NPA are helping us come up with policies and guidelines in the land distribution, especially on who should be prioritized—those landless and those who lack lands to till,” said Ka Iling, a participant in the AgRev conference.

Aside from the individual effort to plant food crops in their palit tanim campaign, a substantial portion of the land for distribution will be allotted for communal farming and food production for the needs of the revolutionary mass organizations and the NPA units.

“There have been already existing communal lands in different villages, probably for more than 10 years now. But the lands are too small for our needs,” Ka Iling pointed out. “So, aside from these existing communal farms, we could work on a bigger piece of land to augment our needs,” he continued. The members of the Party branches and revolutionary mass organizations, he said, could work together and produce more crops.

Minimum and maximum program of agrarian revolution

The efforts of Ka Ludy, Ka Iling, Ka Efren, Ka Jong and other members of the PKM in this community exemplify the unity of the peasants nationwide to carry out the agrarian revolution led by the Party, the people’s army, and the NDFP.

Already, almost a million PKM members have benefited from the Party and the NPA’s maximum agrarian reform program where more than 44,000 hectares of land were confiscated and redistributed all over the country. Millions of others have benefited from the campaigns for lower land rent, end to usury, just harvest proceeds, increased farm gate prices, and elimination of trickery when produce are weighed and priced.

Only the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA-NDFP can proudly lay claim that, in its almost 50 years of existence, it has slowly but steadily freed the peasants from the hundreds of years of feudal bondage.

Mindlessly Mishandling the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

in Mainstream
by Leon Castro

Like a poker game that he plays all by himself, whimsically rigging the rules, is how Rodrigo R. Duterte now apparently treats the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. He has mindlessly cast aside all the hard work that both his government’s negotiating panel and that of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have painstakingly undertaken.

Twice did Duterte arbitrarily cancel the fifth round of formal negotiations, in May and August 2017. But in both instances (as he had done earlier) he subsequently resorted to back-channel talks and agreed to continue the negotiations.

Up till the last minute, all looked rosy for the peace talks. In two discreet back-channel discussions in October and early November—to which Duterte had given explicit go-signal—the GRP and NDFP panels worked furiously to hammer out three draft documents. They had agreed, at the minimum, to refine and initial the documents at the fifth round and, at the maximum, to finalize and sign them at the sixth round in early 2018. The heads and members of both panels were already in Oslo, Norway, when Duterte’s order to cancel the talks came.

The three draft documents were: a draft agreement on agrarian reform and rural development and on national industrialization and economic development (the prime aspects of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER); a draft Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire Agreement; and a draft General Amnesty for political prisoners.

Had the fifth round of formal negotiations proceeded and achieved its set objectives, 2017 would have ended with high hopes for continuing peace negotiations. And the Duterte government would have looked good in the eyes of the Filipino people.

Hundreds of hours of meetings cum negotiations by the Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) went into the drafting of the first document, which could have accelerated the entire peace process towards addressing the root causes of the nearly 50 years of armed conflict and attaining just and lasting peace in the country.

Common agrarian reform and national industrialization drafts

Over seven months of peace talks with four formal rounds of negotiations, the NDFP and the GRP panels were able to forge ahead in crafting common drafts for agrarian reform and rural development and for national industrialization and economic development. They held bilateral meetings during the second, third and fourth rounds—in Oslo, Norway (October 7-8, 2016); Rome, Italy (January 22-24, 2017); and Nordwijk an Zee, The Netherlands (April 4-5, 2017), respectively. In addition, there were no less than 10 bilateral meetings in the Philippines and abroad by the NDFP and GRP RWCs-SER between April 25 and November 17 last year.

On agrarian reform and national industrialization, there were nine sections in the common draft signed in Manila by the RWCs last November 20 and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian Government third party facilitator. These are:

Free distribution of land to tillers, farmers, farmworkers and fisherfolks and writing off of the arrears in amortization payments by earlier land reform beneficiaries;

The agreement includes coverage of plantations and large-scale commercial farms with leasehold, joint venture, non-land transfer schemes (e.g. stock distribution option);

  • Immediate and expedited installation of farmer beneficiaries;
  • Implementation of agrarian support services on production, harvest, post-harvest, insurance, credit and free irrigation;
  • Elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices;
  • Fisheries and aquatic resources reforms;
  • National land and water use policy aligned with agrarian reform;
  • Develop rural industries and domestic science and technology; and
  • Building of rural infrastructure, such as irrigation, post-harvest, transport, communication, power facilities.

Signed on the same day, the NDFP and the GRP RWCs common draft on national industrialization listed 10 agreed-on sections, as follows

  1. Use of the term “national industrialization”;
  2. Explicit mention of economic planning;
  3. Development of specific industries, industrial sectors, and industrial projects;
  4. Nationalization of public utilities and mining;
  5. “Filipinization” of minerals processing and trade;
  6. Regulation of foreign investment;
  7. State intervention and regulation;
  8. Creation of workers’ councils;
  9. Breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies; and
  10. Financing through higher taxes on the rich and lower on poor, as well as revenues from gambling, luxury goods, tobacco/alcohol, and tariffs. The parties also agreed to set up an industrial investment fund.

The agrarian reform and rural development and the national industrialization and economic development accords, are parts of the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) Part III, under the title Developing the National Economy. These are mutually acknowledged by the NDFP and the GRP as the most important aspects of the peace negotiations. When finally approved by the principals and implemented, they are expected to alleviate poverty and inequality in the country—addressing the root causes of the armed conflict.

From both sub-agreements, the social and economic reform negotiations are expected to move on to the next issues, which are environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation. The other parts of the CASER agenda include the following:

Part IV. Upholding people’s rights 
A. Rights of the working people
B. Promoting patriotic, progressive and pro-people culture
C. Recognition of ancestral lands and territories of national minorities

Part V. Economic sovereignty for national development 
A. Foreign economic & trade relations
B. Financial, monetary & fiscal policies
C. Social & economic planning

Part VI. Overall implementing mechanism

Part VII. Final provisions

Negotiations on the above issues are expected to be easier and faster, compared with those on agrarian reform and national industrialization which are deemed to be the hardest part of the entire negotiations.

Volatile GRP president

Apparently, all it took for Duterte to mindlessly cast aside these great achievements of the negotiations was his seeing on television militant activists protesting US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Philippines for the Asean summit last November. Were imagined personal slights arising from such protest action against one he probably considered a soul mate, more important to him than assiduously working to achieve peace?

Not long after seeing ASEAN protest videos on television, Duterte ordered his negotiators to cancel “all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDFP.” Subsequently, he issued Proclamation 360 (November 23) terminating the GRP-NDFP peace talks. This was followed by Proclamation 374 (December 5) declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as “terrorist organizations” under both the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9373) and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (RA 10168).

Under the law, the proscription of the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations doesn’t instantly take effect. The government needs to first file a petition with a Regional Trial Court to proclaim the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations, which petition will have to undergo hearings before the court can issue a ruling. Yet Duterte’s proclamation and his military minions’ relentless campaign to slander the revolutionary organizations have opened the gates to more human rights violations, as happened in his notorious Oplan Tokhang against suspected drug users and peddlers.

His ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the reactionary government’s intelligence branches to arbitrarily list down suspected officers and members of underground revolutionary organizations and of their alleged aboveground “fronts” can only be interpreted as orders for increased intimidation, abduction, torture and murder of legal democratic activists and other civilians.

In the latter part of 2017, Duterte did these things that expose himself as a fraud and a liar disinterested in peace as well as a tyrant in the exact mold of his idol Ferdinand Marcos.

NDFP determined to fight for just peace

Duterte’s lies and slander against revolutionary organizations, however, failed to gain traction among the Filipino people. The people have become aware of and disgusted over Duterte’s mass murder of suspected drug users and peddlers. More and more have also wisened up to his obvious subservience to capitalist and foreign interests, plunder of the environment, attacks against peasant and national minority communities, and his own family’s connections with underworld groups. And his lies against the revolutionary forces are increasingly being dismissed as hot flashes of a drug-addled mind.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison has remarked that the US-directed Duterte regime is daydreaming that it can discredit and destroy the sovereign revolutionary will of the Filipino people by proscribing the revolutionary forces as terrorist organizations, by requiring them to submit themselves to the sham processes of the reactionary state, and by unleashing gross and systematic crimes of terrorism and human rights violations.

The Filipino people and the revolutionary forces, he said, are determined to fight for national and social liberation, people´s democracy, economic development, cultural progress and just peace.

While the Duterte fascist regime may have terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, Sison pointed out, “it cannot be too sure that it will last long [in power] because the Filipino people and even those in the GRP detest the monstrous crimes of the regime, especially mass murder, corruption and puppetry to the US.” The crisis of the ruling system continues to worsen and the resources of the regime for violence and deception are limited.

PKM: Wellspring of the NPA

in Mainstream
by Leon Castro

The new Rodrigo Duterte government has declared it will uplift the lives of peasants with policies and programs aimed at eliminating injustices that have bedeviled the biggest sector of the country.  It has promised to provide free irrigation, return the stolen coconut levy funds to the millions of farmer-victims, and offer support services to farmers to improve their harvests.

To demonstrate and give substance to this commitment, President Duterte appointed veteran progressive peasant leader Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano, former chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, as Department of Agrarian Reform secretary.  In turn, Mariano pledged to work for the free distribution of tillable lands to the farmers, stop the widespread ejection of poor farmers who cannot afford to pay land amortization, and push for the legislation of a genuine agrarian reform law.

But, despotic landlords are expected to resist and sabotage these promised reforms. Mariano is their avowed enemy after all.  Ergo, meaningful reforms—such as land redistribution, wage increases for farm workers, and utilization of agricultural lands for sustainable food production—will still largely depend on the revolutionary struggle of the peasants to effect genuine changes.

 

How the PKM developed

The Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM or the National Assembly of Farmers) is the revolutionary organization of peasants and a founding allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.  It has been fighting for much more than what is now being promised by the Duterte government.  PKM is the main organization, and along with the New People’s Army (NPA), forms the revolutionary mass bases in the countryside for the 48-year old national democratic revolution.  It unites peasants, mostly poor and middle class farmers and farm workers, and guides them in their fight for agrarian revolution and related reforms.  From its ranks have come the most number of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA members.

The PKM started out in Central Luzon and Isabela by helping peasants combat bandits and cattle rustlers, said its spokesperson Andres Agtalon.  The peasants early on realized that only by uniting could they fight perennial problems such as unjust division of harvest proceeds, farm wages, land grabbing, usury, and other injustices.  They attended assemblies where they listened to discussions of the national situation and the specific situation of the peasantry in which they shared information and experiences. Then they were inspired to form peasant associations. From among the politically advanced members sprung the initial formations that constituted the PKM.

“The NPA pioneered this effort among the peasants and, to this day, it still conducts this vital work in areas where the national democratic revolution is expanding its work,” Agtalon pointed out.   In the past five decades, PKM formations have advanced from barangay-level to municipal-level structures.   “We now have inter-municipality dialogues among bigger PKM formations in select regions of the country,” he said.

 

Maximum gains in agrarian revolution

The PKM has benefited from the NPA’s maximum agrarian reform programs, which in turn, have resulted in PKM’s ever-deepening strength and widening reach. About 44,146 hectares of both productive and abandoned farm and pasture lands nationwide have been confiscated by the NPA. These were redistributed to members of the PKM. In Masbate alone, 16,605 hectares of mostly pasture land in 73 barangays were distributed to 5,000 poor peasant families; 12,000 hectares in the Eastern Visayas region; 2,000 hectares in Central Visayas and Negros that are now tilled by 1,000 families.  In Mindoro, 7,000 families have acquired 2,541 hectares mostly through land occupation.

“These are just partial reports that the PKM leadership has received from the ground.  As the national democratic revolution advances, the PKM shall be able to give more lands to poor peasants nationwide,” Agtalon explained.

“Lands confiscated from landlords and local and foreign agri-businesses are given to beneficiaries free of amortization,” Agtalon added.  But the reactionary government, particularly the past administrations, imposed amortization schemes to enable landlords to collect so-called compensation under the failed agrarian reform laws.  The PKM campaigns among its members to resist this scheme.

“The most despotic of landlords who employ violence against the farmers’ just demands and actions are punished by the CPP-NPA through their judicial processes,” he said.

 

Minimum demands program

With the assistance of the NPA, the PKM also implements what it calls “minimum demand” programs.  These include wage-increase campaigns for farm workers, reduction or elimination of land rent, just division of harvest proceeds between tenants and landlords, eradication of fraud when their produce are being weighed and priced, increase of farm gate prices, and many others.

The PKM encourages members and beneficiaries to practice cooperative and collective farming to reduce capitalization requirements and maximize yield.  When favorable, it forms associations among monocrop farmers, such as banana and pineapple farmers.  These efforts increase the farmers’ incomes by eliminating heavy individual borrowing from usurious compradors and farm traders who insist on buying cheap the farmers’ harvests.  In many instances, PKM formations are themselves the cooperatives that implement these programs.

Farmers’ support services such as training and workshops on organic farming, construction of mini dams for free irrigation, installation of hydro-electric- solar-wind power turbines for post-harvest drying or processing, and basic farm machineries are also offered by PKM to poor peasants nationwide.

Among farm workers, the PKM forms unions that not only struggle for wage increases but defend their job security as well.  Many Nueva Ecija farm workers, for example, recently waged a successful campaign against harvester-combines they call halimaw (monster) that threatened to make their employment redundant.

“Based on collated reports, no less than a million peasant families have benefited from all these campaigns and programs,” Agtalon said.

 

Courage in face of adversity

Agtalon acknowledged that PKM formations have temporarily suffered setbacks due to vicious state counterinsurgency operations.  PKM leaders and members have been assassinated or abducted, tortured and detained while communities underwent forced evacuations or harassments.  He cited retired Major General Jovito Palparan’s bloody campaigns in Mindoro, Nueva Ecija and Eastern Visayas as examples.  It was during these times that the landlords and compradors tried to reclaim what the farmers had already won, he said.

“But once the farmers have been organized and have experienced the benefits of collective action under the PKM, their revolutionary fervor cannot be extinguished,” Agtalon noted.  Once they have weathered the periodic attacks, the farmers rebuild and strive to become even stronger.

PKM’s endurance mirrors the NPA’s ever deepening and widening strength nationwide, as the two are strongly intertwined, Agtalon emphasized.  Where there are NPA outfits, there will surely be PKM formations.  Where the NPA is strong, the PKM gains strength as well.  And vice-versa.  Whenever and wherever the NPA declares that it is at its strongest, the same can be said of the PKM, Agtalon added.

“Aside from being the main wellspring of members for the NPA, the PKM also functions as the people’s militia,” Agtalon  proudly declared, elaborating: “It assists the NPA in intelligence gathering. It also helps in the educational, cultural and organizational work of the national democratic revolution in a comprehensive manner.”  Thus, he concluded: “The PKM is a significant part of the people’s war.”

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