The Lakbayan gave us renewed strength to continue on fighting for our land in the knowledge that we are not alone in the struggle and in fact, one with the majority of the people,” said Zaldy Alfiler, a farmer from Ilocos and secretary general of Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
Vol. VII, NO. 50, January 27-February 2, 2008
For the peasants and youth delegates of Ilocos Sur and La Union that joined the Mendiola massacre commemoration in Manila, the trip was well worth it. The ride from Ilocos Sur to Manila took almost 16 hours with the 26 delegates cramped inside the 20-seater jeepney. However, the long trip did not dampen their spirits.
Secretary-General of Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP- Exploitation), Zaldy Alfiler said that they joined the Lakbayan (People’s March) because they wanted to inform other people regarding the plight of the farmers of the Ilocos region. In a certain community in Ilocos Sur, 33 families are affected by the threat of cancellation of their Certificates of Land Transfer (CLT), which have been awarded to them through Marcos’s Presidential Decree 27.
The former owner of the land, Dr. Miguel Florendo died in 1977 and by 1980, the CLT was awarded to the farmers. However, the children of Florendo filed a petition claiming ownership of the land before the Department of Agrarian Reform. Since then, other people also filed claims while the farmers continue to till the land.
Tatang Romeo (not his real name), has been farming ever since he could remember. Now, 66 years old and already with 4 grown children, he is still working hard to keep their land. Tatang Romeo has ¾ hectares of land, ½ of which is under the CLT. He owns 2 carabaos and co-owns 3 cows. During planting season he hires people for their kuliglig (hand tractors).
Despite his age, Tatang Romeo is still strong and has just recently finished planting tobacco. He also did not mind marching from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Quezon City all the way to Mendiola. According to Alfiler, “We have come a long way to call for justice, not just for the victims of the Mendiola massacre, but to all peasants who are currently experiencing land grabbing and other cases of repression and terrorism from the government.”
The Lakbayan was also an eye opener for the delegates of Ilocos. “They realized that they are not alone in their call for land ownership. We may have come from different regions but our situation is the same- the peasants do not own the land that they are tilling, and that is already an injustice. The Lakbayan gave us renewed strength to continue on fighting for our land in the knowledge that we are not alone in the struggle and in fact, one with the majority of the people”, Alfiler said. (Bulatlat.com)