Statement on the International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2020

by MASIPAG National Office

MASIPAG Statement on the International Human Rights Day

Human rights, according to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are inherent and inalienable to all of us. In particular, the Rome Declaration of Food Security by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states the right of everyone to “have access to safe and nutritious food is consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger and pledges political will and common and national commitment to achieving food security for all.” 

It is unfortunate that present conditions and policies perpetuate the opposite of what should be. In this regard, we oppose the advancement of the status quo, because, in order for a nation where human rights, in all aspects, are respected, we should remain steadfast in our advocacies and protest against the unjust treatment of the people. UN’s long-touted goal of eradicating hunger has not been achieved primarily due to the dominance and monopoly of agro-corporations on the food production system. These corporations, in their long history of environmental and economic plunder, blindly pursue profit and impede the right of the people to be free from hunger. Companies such as Monsanto, now merged into Bayer, led the commercialization of GM crops, with the extensive paired use of toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Policies enacted in the country push communities to food insecurity and neglect the right of the people to food. With the passing of the Rice Tariffication law, the fragile system of trade that heavily relies on imports shove consumers towards foreign-produced rice. This has also left local farmers economically insecure as rice traders prefer to buy cheaper imported rice. It is evident that, while there are multitudes of solutions that are inclusive of the rights of farmers and agricultural workers, policymakers implement laws that serve the interests of corporations and their benefactors. Instead, policies embolden the development, production, and commercialization of privately-owned and costly seeds such as GM crops that impede on the farmers’ right to seeds. Under the pandemic situation, 4.2 million families in the country are in involuntary hunger, making initiatives for the attainment of the right to food more relevant than ever.

Salient problems that generate crises in the agricultural sector have long been left unaddressed, such as the issue of agrarian reform. Currently, the inhuman situation of the farmers in landlord-owned haciendas is parallel to the medieval feudal relation, wherein insecurity in persons in terms of land, livelihood, and food are evident due to the landlord’s position. Recent developments also saw some agricultural lands convert to residential and industrial zones, violating farmer rights and laws, and furthering food insecurity and loss of livelihood in the sector.

Today, we find ourselves in shrinking democratic spaces; not only do our concerns, for most of the time, fall under deaf ears of institutions that are supposed to listen, they are also drowned by greedy and even violent self-interest, which is very much evident in our laws and policies. With the enactment of the Anti-Terror Law, we, as farmer advocates, are further relegated to a position of fear and insecurity. it legitimizes harassment of many non-government organizations and activists due to their advocacy work, evidenced by a long history of abuse. In fact, two years ago, former MASIPAG Board of Trustees member and Pro Bono lawyer for farmers Atty. Ben Ramos was slain after being tagged by police forces as a member of an armed insurgency group. If, even before the passing of a law that gives more power to state forces, police and military personnel are emboldened to perpetrate abuse and hinder legitimate work by the basis of opposition to prevailing socio-political set-up, then, current conditions can be expected to worsen than what had transpired before. In a report, SAKA said that at least 290 farmer-leaders were killed since President Duterte’s rise to power last 2016. Now, rampant red-tagging efforts are made by government institutions to harass, and silence movements for the people, in which many are farmer-leaders. State-sanctioned activities such as these use billions of public funds, which are better used on social and agricultural programs, rather than serve as a prelude to further human rights violations. All of these brews a climate of impunity that, in turn, strengthens corporatization and neoliberalism.

Knowing these dire consequences, Masipag should still pursue its advocacy for farmers’ rights most especially their rights to seeds and a farming system that frees them from the control of transnational agri-corporations and continue to support local communities in their struggle against mining and mega-dams. We recognize that fighting for our rights is an inalienable right, and therefore, the right to protest and resistance against injustice and prejudice are reserved for the people, more so, for the marginalized sectors of our society.