‘Killing fields’

I was not able to see the movie “The Killing Fields” (1984), which is about a photojournalist having survived the communist regime of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge during the late 70s. But I know for sure that it was about the regime’s barbarism towards a quarter of the population suspected to have been connected with its enemies including the USA.

The film’s setting is the rural Cambodia. And I cannot help but be reminded of that in the wake of the spate of murder of Filipino peasants in certain parts of my country today.

In this millennium when humanity is supposed to progress, barbarism has taken its new form. Since UNORKA Filipinas (a national peasant federation) was established in 2000, its members active in the struggle for land reform (enshrined even in the Philippine Constitution of 1987 and international covenants) have been subject to harassment by the recalcitrant landlords in cahoots with their private armies, the underground left forces, and even the State agents. And harassments have so far resulted in murder of 10 peasant leaders. This is aside from the murdered nine lives of peasants identified with the Task Force Mapalad (TFM).

Last year, the most important (as far as the fight for authentic agrarian reform is concerned) peasant leader slain by the men identified with a Mindanao banana plantations magnate was Ka Eric Cabanit. This first quarter of the year, two peasants were again gunned down on separate incidents. One belonged to the TFM (Jan 25) and another to UNORKA (Jan 30).

The motives for the murder, even without scientific probes, are as clear as the morning sky. Eyewitnesses can corroborate that the assassins were identified with the landlords pissed off by the organized farmers’ consistent plea for placing their landholdings under agrarian reform. To give you a comprehensive view of the agrarian reform and human rights situation in the Philippines, go here.

Unless miracles happen, the spate of killings of peasants clamoring for authentic agrarian reform will continue, along with that of urban activists and media professionals critical of the Arroyo administration.

The farming fields in the Philippines, in the period where the agrarian reform program is supposed to have ended, gradually cease to be. They are being transformed into killing fields.

I understand that Khmer Rouge used peasants to kill those opposed to its rule. In the Philippines, unless their interests are heeded by the current and next governments, Filipino peasants will not need demagogues or any other external prodding to rise up and address their problems themselves, even to the point of killing those oppressing them for so long.

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