In a bid to reassert their right to rural lands, farm workers and peasants in the Philippines have directly seized and occupied property claimed by one of the archipelago’s largest banks and main oligarch families, the Aquino clan. The move is an escalation of a long campaign to dismantle the unjust system of feudalism and landlord rule inherited from the period of Spanish colonialism.
Gathered in the hundreds and carrying signs with slogans such as, “Land to the Tillers, Not to Their Killers,” members and supporters of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas — a militant mass movement of small farmers, landless peasants, farm workers, rural youth and women — converged on a walled-off section of Hacienda Luisita, a massive sugar plantation in the Tarlac province controlled by the Cojuangco-Aquino political dynasty..As hundreds of police and private security guards looked on, 700 farmers took turns destroying a concrete wall enclosing large tracts of land that were illegally sold to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. Eventually, a farm tractor was brought in to pull sections of the wall down. While the farmers dispersed that afternoon, they swore to return and undertake the collective cultivation of the land.
For the farmers, the walled-off enclosure represents the broken promise of land reform that the Philippine rural poor have been fighting for decades to win in the face of illegal and semi-legal methods of dispossession and open robbery by ruling elite families.
“Kadamay expresses its full support for the #OccupyLuisita movement as it echoes our own call for the government to own up to its sins and finally begin to give to people what is due them,” Kadamay chair Gloria Arellano said, noting that the land remains abandoned “simply because the landlords and the government hold on to their spoils rather than fulfill their duties to the people. Just like the idle housing units, the ruling class would rather see homes and land go unused rather than be owned or made productive by the broad masses of the Filipino people.”
The mass action, given the hashtag #OccupyLuisita by the peasant movement, recalled the recent successful takeover and redistribution of government housing undertaken by allied urban group Kadamay in Bulacan province, called #OccupyBulacan.