Asian Peasant Coalition (APC)/PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP)
The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) welcome the dismissal of the warrants of arrest and the decade-old fabricated cases against former APC Chair and PANAP partner Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines or KMP) Chair Emeritus Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and three other Filipino activists.
Having known and closely worked with Ka Paeng for many years now, we believed in his assertion of innocence and in his claim that the charges against him and fellow activists are trumped-up and simply meant to harass them. We are pleased that the court affirmed this in its recent decision.
APC and PANAP members and network organizations can attest how Ka Paeng has been working tirelessly for the interest and welfare of poor, vulnerable and landless farmers in the Philippines and the Asia Pacific region. He has done this both as a peasant leader as well as a former official of the Philippine government having served as a member of parliament several times and recently as a Cabinet secretary in charge of the country’s land reform program.
As observed by fellow land and human rights advocates in the Philippines, the reopening of old, baseless charges like what was done to Ka Paeng is a form of harassment against those who push for meaningful policy reforms that serve the poor and marginalized but threaten the interests of the rich and powerful. Ka Paeng’s lifelong advocacy of genuine land reform, for instance, certainly contradicts the agenda and interests of influential landlords and big corporations that want to maintain their monopoly over vast tracts of land in the country.
While we welcome the dismissal of the cases against Ka Paeng, we also note that a number of other people – from community leaders to NGO and development workers – continue to be arrested and charged by the Philippine government. APC and PANAP urge the Philippine authorities to address what appears to be widespread allegations of state-sponsored political persecution in the country, including on those working for genuine agrarian reform and pro-people rural development like Ka Paeng.
Harassment of activists and communities and other forms of human rights abuses have been happening not only in the Philippines but elsewhere in the region. These have been most pronounced in the rural areas where the poor are defending their access to land and resources that “development” projects and investments are taking away from them. We express our continuing support and solidarity with them as we fight for our right to land and right to live. ###