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Support to peasant women, asserting right to life and lands
in Central Mindanao, Philippines

Background Information

A History of Struggle for Land and Life

The sound of gunfire resonated through the wide rice fields within the premises of the Central Mindanao University, March 29, 2011. Still, the farmers went about cultivating and working. The presence of unwelcomed and heavily armed guards and soldiers who fired the shots was a clear warning signal to the farmers that they were unwanted within the school premises. Yet, the farmers remain steadfast. They have more than two decades of struggle to brave them through any attempt to take their right to land and life away from them.

Then organized under the Kilusang Sariling Sikap, the farmers were originally agricultural tillers hired by the Central Mindanao University to develop the idle lands of the school into rice farms. When CMU went bankrupt, the school was unable to compensate the farmers. Through 'Sariling Sikap', the farmers were allowed to cultivate the lands of CMU for a corresponding rental fee per hectare of land in 1986.

Central Mindanao University claims 3,084 hectares of land. Of this, the farmers claimed 800 hectares of land for 1,200 of its members in their application to become beneficiaries of the Pres. Corazon Aquino government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The Department of Agrarian Reform granted 400 hectares of land and gave out Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) to the farmers.

CMU however, implemented the CMU-Income Enhancement Program and planned to lease the lands to multinationals as a means to generate income for the school and compensate for the government's lack of budget to education and the university. CMU appealed to the Court of Appeals not to grant ownership of the lands to the farmers. Yet the farmers won their case. However, the Supreme Court decision of 1992 favored, this time, CMU on the grounds that the lands used for the purposes of education are exempted from CARP. The CLOAs awarded to the farmers became mere papers.

Since then, the farmers were constantly being forced from their lands through series of attempts of evictions by the CMU, using force and undemocratic methods. The farmers separately organized as Buffalo, Tamaraw and Limus formed the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus Farmers' Association (BTL) as a collective expression of the farmers within the Central Mindanao University binded by the common aspiration and call for land.

On the year 2002, the BTL farmers scored major victory when the CMU entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the farmers that allowed them to lease the designated land for five years for a rent of Php 4,000.oo per year per hectare of irrigated land. During the five years, the local government of Bukidnon shall seek a proper relocation site for the farmers. Until then, the farmers shall stay in CMU.

In the year 2007, the MOA expired. The local government unit failed to find an appropriate relocation site for the farmers. The target sites are either non-agricultural lands or locations with problems on peace and order.

Present Challenges for the Farmers

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CMU, through its President Maria Luisa Soliven, formed a Task Force to prepare the necessary papers for the Board of Regents of the school to seek measures to finally evict the farmers from their lands. A Final Proposal was offered to the farmers stating that the farmers only have three years to stay in the premises and whether or not a relocation site is provided, they should vacate the school grounds. The farmers refused to agree to the proposal.

DAVCO, corporate plantation targeting the CMU lands for its pineapple and banana plantation, has been seen as the motivating force that pushes the CMU administration to immediately evict the farmers.

CMU released an order last April 2011 prohibiting the farmers from tilling the lands and directing the farmers to leave. Since then, the presence of CMU guards and soldiers is heavily felt in the farms. Initial reports of Karapatan documented harassments of the farmers who attempt to cultivate the farms and confiscation their farm equipments by the CMU guards and soldiers.

To date, the farmers have organized a Kampuhan (Camp Out) in front of CMU. They also organized their schedules for farming activities to prevent any untoward incidents to occur between the CMU guards and those working in the farms. The Kampuhan has been going-on for more than two weeks and still no concrete response to the calls of the farmers has been given. The local government unit of Bukidnon still has no commitment to the relocation site sought by the farmers while the CMU pigheadedly asserts that the farmers leave the grounds immediately.

Updates:

House Resolution No. 1418
RESOLUTION DIRECTING THE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO CONDUCT AN INQUIRY IN AID OF LEGISLATION ON THE REPORTED HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY SECURITY PERSONNEL OF CENTRAL MINDANAO UNIVERSITY (CMU), ELEMENTS OF CIVILIAN ARMED FORCES GEOGRAPHICAL UNIT (CAFGU) AND MEMBERS OF PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE AGAINST FARMERS BELONGING TO BUKIDNON FREE FARMERS AND AGRICULTURAL LABORERS ASSOCIATION (BUFFALO), TRIAD AGRICULTURAL MANPOWER OF RURAL ACTIVE WORKERS (TAMARAW) AND LANDLESS TILLERS INHABITANTS OF MUSUAN (LIMUS)
16 June 2011
Introduced by the Philippines House of Representative, Hon. Rafael Mariano, Anakpwais Partylist Representative.

4 farmers hurt as Bukidnon campus guards open fire at protesters
15 June 2011
By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Inquirer Mindanao

Defend Agrarian Rights, Uphold Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms!
14 June 2011
AMIHAN Northern Mindanao

CMU guards indiscriminately fired at BTL farmers protesting outside the university,
3 seriously wounded

14 June 2011
AMIHAN Northern Mindanao

Additional Information

Tired and starving, peasant women of Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Women’s Association in Maramag, Bukidnon advanced in the picket lines and perform their Operation Tikad together with the BTL Farmers’ Assocation.

'Operation Tikad' is the term used for the action of the farmers of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus areas inside the Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Maramag, Bukidnon in collectively tilling the land while a deal is yet to be sealed between the CMU administration and the displaced farmers.

For additional information and photos, please visit: http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2011/2011-06June08-WomenResist/womenresist.htm

You may also download the Speak Out! for additional information on the result of the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) which was conducted in July 2007 showcasing the struggle of the farmers in Central Mindanao University (CMU) as a confirmation of the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to redistribute land to farmers.

Braving Bullets: Central Mindanao farmers struggle for genuine land reform
by Ilang-Ilang Quijano

Speak Out! Communities Asserting Their Rights to Food Sovereignty
PAN AP and PCFS
July 2007



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