Monday, December 17, 2007

Sumilao Update: Metro Manila Leg - Day 14

The Sumilao farmers today are slated to meet GMA to present their case against SMFI. The meeting will be done over lunch with representatives of the farmers and members of the clergy. A dawn mass was held at the farmers' camp at 4:30AM which was celebrated by Fr. Anton Pascual. Claretians Urban Poor Apostolates all handed gifts yesterday to the Sumilao farmers while ADMU volunteers extended counseling to the farmers.

The farmers held a procession at 7AM with other farmers, nuns from different different convents, other religious groups, students from Ateneo and the UNORKA (another farmers' group camped at the DAR who are fighting a conversion case against the Yulos). Some 200 members of UNORKA will join the march to Malacañang in the hope that GMA will also hear their plight.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has thrown its support with the Sumilao farmers. Bishop Oscar Cruz added that the farmers should carry on with their fight but should be wary of Malacañang's promises. Bishop David of Pampanga said that what is clear is the bias of government to big business. The bishops also calls on the Filipino people to support the plight of the farmers. The march is being covered live by Radyo Veritas. Bishop Rosaleswho at first said that he is with the farmers in their fight is suddenly "silent" on the issue.

The farmers has nothing but hope. Pangandaman said that the DAR's legal team is now finalizing its decision to resolve the Sumilao issue. I am wary though of Panagnadaman's sincerity as his actuations have already exposed his leanings towards SMFI. Pangandaman last week tried to prevent former DAR officials from issuing statements in support of the farmers.

UPDATE: University of Santo Tomas hosted the marchers to a snack after which Fr. Rector of UST Dela Rosa led a prayer and commits the support of the UST. He likens the march to Gandhi's peaceful march of protest. Malacañang however resets the 11AM meeting to 2PM. It came as a surprise as GMA said that they are waiting for Pangandaman who is due to arrive from Kuala Lumpur. We all know that Gloria never waits for anyone. Is this part of an unfolding drama. I will await the 2PM deadline before I add my views.

Bunye, Remonde and Golez joined the mass in San Beda. They later escorted the group to Malacañang for the meeting with GMA. They were received by Gloria and were allowed to present their case before her and some of her cabinet. Present were Bunye, Remonde, Apostol, Yap and Gov. Zubiri. The farmers (as Gari Lazaro reports) were overwhelmed and in suspended disbelief with how the meeting is being conducted.

Pangandaman arrived late and lawyered for San Miguel and tried to explain his inaction on the case. The Dept. of Agriculture and Dept. of Social Welfare and Development will extend assistance to the Sumilao farmers. The DA will provide irrigation while the DSWD will provide food and transportation for the farmers. The real issue was not resolved and a smaller group was formed to again meet later tonight.

In a surprising move, Gov. Zubiri confirmed the claims of the farmers and even disclosed details on the issue. The way I see it is that GMA is trying to squirm her way out of this. Her only goal now is to prevent the support for the farmers from growing. She's focused on sending the farmers home, ASAP with or without resolving the issue.

In the end, the farmers maybe compromised when real politics sets in. Even with a battery of lawyers, SMFI and DAR will fight tooth and nail against the farmers. Ads are coming out and money is starting to flow. Dirt is being dished out to destroy the credibility of the Sumilao farmers. Still they remain strong and focused. The hapless farmers have nothing to match the onslaught of big business. Their only possession, hope and the growing support for their plight. I hope that at the end of the day, not only justice will be served but social justice will be addressed.

"Bloggers Call for Boycotting of Monterey/Purefoods Products in support of Sumilao farmers. This Christmas season, December 15, 2007 to January 2, 2008. Bring down the sales of San Miguel Food, Inc. to show public support to the farmers of Bukidnon who were denied of their 144 hectares of land. Please pass to all bloggers."

Bloggers' Voice Update:

Pedestrian Observer
AWB-Arbet Bernardo: Sumilao Sa Metro Manila
The Equalizer: Boss Danding
The Four-eyed Journal
Oddball by Mayor Jesse Robredo: Sumilao Walk
Manila Bay Watch
Loves an Ocean
Planet Naga
Postcard Headlines
The Antisocial
Thirty Thousand Fishes
The Citizen On Mars
Ellen Tordesillas
Gari Lazaro
Uniffors: On Patricia Evangelsita's Column
Ibangon Ang Bayan: Ang Makabagong Lumad
The Equalizer:Boycott SMC's Monterey Meat
Ang Sa Wari Ko
AWB-Arbet Bernardo: A Nation of Crackpots and Nuts
Viking: The Skeptical Subversive
Manila Bay Watch: Boycott San Miguel Products
Messages From Balatucan
AWB-Arbet Bernardo: Kababuyan
You can show your support for the Sumilao Farmers here.