Dignity, Freedom, and Justice For All: MASIPAG on International Human Rights Day

January 18, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

As the world commemorate the International Human Rights Day today, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) is calling for concrete actions to stand for and defend Human Rights and tackle pressing global issues especially the plight of the peasant farmers.

With this year’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR) Human Rights Day slogan being “Dignity, Freedom, and Justice for All” MASIPAG is once again registering its declaration that Farmers Rights are Human Rights.

“We are currently in a socio-political climate where longstanding and deep-rooted structural problems perpetuates and breeds a culture of impunity in order to preserve the status quo. Basic freedoms such as dissent, critique and presenting just, humane and meaningful solutions and alternatives to the obviously failing agriculture and food system are seen as threats. Democratic spaces are shrinking and are exposing more farmers, along with rights defenders, as targets of intimidation and suppression” said Alfie Pulumbarit, MASIPAG National Coordinator.

Since 2016, 290 farmer-leaders in the country defending their rights to land have been killed. The Anti-Terror Law which has affected farmers and rural peoples rights to development, to organize and peaceably assemble has been allocated with P10 billion peso from the people’s tax that should have been instead used to provide support to farmers amid global recession and climate emergency. Other policies such as Memorandum No. 32, and Executive Order 70 that arbitrarily redtag and persecute the rural people, mostly farmers asserting their rights, are also retained and enforced. Justice for MASIPAG past Board of Trustees member Atty Ben Ramos, who was killed last November 2018, remains elusive to this day.

“We all just want to live a safe and dignified life. For farmers, what entails a safe and dignified life is the transformation of agriculture and the food system where the aspirations and needs of small farmers and the masses are at the center, not that of agro-transnational corporations and the global elite. To rely on farming as a means to have a safe and dignified life is becoming futile nowadays. Many duty bearers who are vested with the power of actuating and upscaling it remain at the service of the few despite our farmers having already articulated and identified the theory, science, and practice of achieving and sustaining our food systems through farmer-led agroecology.” Pulumbarit added.

Access to safe, nutritious and culturally apt food, which is one of the core components of UDHR’s article 25, declaration can only be achieved by transforming our current agriculture and food system that is anchored in farmer-led agroecology and food sovereignty. This will only be possible with structural support and policies that would meaningfully and sustainably actuate it.

“Business as usual is no longer an option. Gains from the prevailing chemical and conventional farming were at the costly expense of the environment and social equity. Radical change is needed in agriculture policy and practice if we were to address the broader objectives of society such as reducing hunger and poverty, improving rural livelihoods, improving nutrition and human health which all encompasses the very foundations of human rights.” said Virginia “Nay Virgie” Nazareno, MASIPAG farmer chairperson and members of a rural women’s group in Quezon.

It goes without saying that small peasant farmers are the first to be violated and robbed of their rights not only to seed, technology and land sovereignty, worse, many are being persecuted for asserting their rights. With 80% of the world’s food being produced by small peasant farmers, they are the ones being subjected to highly hazardous pesticides, surmounting debts, evictions, unfair prices all in the name of profit for the few.

“For more than three decades, MASIPAG farmers have been at the forefront of this radical change in agricultural practice by turning it into a movement through farmer-led agroecology. Having successfully articulated the farmers rights to seed, technology, land and other resources through rigorous theory and practice of farmer-led agroecology, generations of MASIPAG farmers have been spearheading the declaration of farmers rights as equal to human rights” added Nay Virigie.

“As a peasant farmer myself, farmers’ rights is a necessary presupposition in recognizing human rights as us farmers are the core providers of the most basic yet crucial commodities in living a healthy, dignified and meaningful life. It is in this declaration that we cannot separate farmers’ rights from human rights, and the way for it to be recognized is to assert and demand justice for it” Nazareno furthered.

During the height of the implementation of Philippine Plant Variety Act of 2022, MASIPAG farmers from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao gathered in Laguna to consolidate their stance and demand pertaining to the said act and other related anti-farmer policies. MASIPAG farmers called it Defend Farmers’ Rights from Threats of the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002 where they reiterated farmers’ inalienable and inherent rights to own the land that they are tilling, have their full autonomy on genetic resources and seeds, especially the importance of traditional and farmer-bred seeds that caters the local context of their culture and environment, right to apt, accessible, safe and culturally sensible technology, right to care for the environment, their right for self determination, and right to utilize and further flourish their indigenous and traditional knowledge systems by rejecting biopiracy.

Since then, Defend Farmers’ Rights from Threats of the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002, has been the guiding principles of MASIPAG farmers in asserting that farmers rights are human rights.