As ManiLakbayan reaches Luzon: Minda, STagalog sectors unite in fight vs. landlessness, militarization

As protest-marchers of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao are expected to set foot in Southern Tagalog region this week, the people of Quezon and various sectors from the region have vowed to unite with their Mindanao counterparts on their march against militarization and landlessness.

Manilakbayan, a campaign for Food and Peace for MindaNow that gathered some 300 leaders, human rights victims and defenders, Lumads peasant, workers, women, among others on a journey from Mindanao to Metro Manila, to expose and drumbeat support against the human rights situation in Mindanao and grassroots communities’ victories in pursuing genuine development.

“We welcome the solidarity and support of our brothers and sisters in Southern Tagalog to our common cause. While we are separated by sea and culture, setting foot in this region, which like Mindanao is facing grave militarization and landlessness, is symbolic of our united struggle against the terrors of OPLAN Bayanihan and the anti-people policies of the US-Aquino regime,” said Fr. Christopher Ablon, spokesperson for the Manilakbayan.

He added, “This only strengthens our resolve to reach the seat of this puppet government in Mendiola and pursue our fight for food and peace for the future of our people Mindanao.”

The group said that at present, Mindanao has practically become a big military garrison as 55 combat battalions are now camped out in key economic interest areas across the six regions of the island, along with the police and paramilitary groups to protect the business interests of foreign capitalist and local landlords such as plantations, mining, and energy.

In areas where resistance and dissent are particularly high, the group said that human rights violations characterized by killings, illegals arrests and systematic filing of fabricated cases against mass leaders and activists are patterns following the OPLAN Bayanihan, Aquino’s counter-insurgency measure.

Ablon explained that landlessness due to land grabbing and systematic land conversions has left farmers in dire situation of hunger, joblessness and poverty, which is further exacerbated by militarization and displacement of lumad and civilian communities.

Human rights center Karapatan has documented a total of 68 cases of extrajudicial killings mostly farmers and lumads and 200 cases of trumped up charges against known mass leaders and supporters of militants groups. Continued illegal stationing and attacks on schools by soldiers have resulted to some 5,000 displaced students.

Meanwhile, various STagalog sectors led by peasant and human rights groups are set to join the march and campout through Metro Manila this week. A unity caravan and protest actions in Lucena City will highlight the entry of Manilakbayan in Southern Tagalog before setting off for the Lakbayan march in strategic points in Quezon and Laguna.

“The fight of the people in Mindanao is no different from what our sectors here are experiencing. As we speak, dozens of military battalions are still here in the region and are consistently inflicting human rights violations particularly in Bondoc Peninsula amidst the landlessness and poverty in the countryside. It is only through solidarity and unity we win our struggles,” said Karapatan-Southern Tagalog in a statement.

The Manilakbayan which started last November 14 in Davao City will culminate in Mendiola during the International Human Rights Day on December 10.


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