On Friday (May 22) afternoon, members of the House of Representatives’ (HoR) Special Action Force (SAF) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) violently demolished the temporary structures set up by farmers camping out of the HoR. The farmers were on the 40th day of the campout, which they set up to press lawmakers on the passage of House Bill (HB) 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).
I was there, with the other staff of Bayan, before the violent demolition took place. We rushed to the HoR after receiving word that there was a threat of demolition. When we arrived at past 12 noon, the farmers have started to voluntarily dismantle the temporary structures occupying one side of the main gate.
Ka Paeng Mariano of Anakpawis and Ka Daning Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) told us that it was in compliance with their agreement with the House’s security officials. The farmers would be allowed to maintain the campout on one side of the gate and hold a moving picket on the other side. When we left at around 1:30 PM, we had the impression that everything was settled.
But as soon as we left, we received separate text messages from those at the campout that the SAF and police, backed up by a fire truck, have started to tear down the remaining structures on the other side. Gerry Corpuz of Pamalakaya later told me at the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) where the evicted farmers transferred, that they were able to defend the camp against the ruthless eviction by the SAF and police for about one and a-half hours.
In its press conference this morning, the peasant leaders, some of the injured farmers and supporters, and Anakpawis representatives Ka Paeng and Joel Maglunsod strongly condemned the demolition.
They pinned the blame directly on House Speaker Prospero Nograles and said House Secretary General Marilyn Yap, Sergeant-at-Arms Brig. Gen. Hortacio Lactao, Legislative Security Bureau (LSB) Isabelito Flores and the police and security guards must be held accountable for the violent eviction that injured 11 people. They will file charges before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and possibly before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR).
At the DAR where I dropped by last night, the farmers and their supporters have started to rebuild their camp. Many of them were physically hurt, but there were no signs of dampened fighting spirit. One “manang” (elderly woman) was animated, repeatedly, tirelessly telling how she got her bruises and how she held her ground against the police.
Gerry asked the designated cook that night to prepare dinner for at least 250 people. They were expecting six jeepneys to arrive from the provinces – reinforcing the farmers and supporters of genuine agrarian reform for the remaining days of the campout.
Yes. The farmers and their supporters will be back on Monday at the main gate of the House. Undaunted, more determined.