PYM – USA Stands With the Farmers of Kidapawan and Condemns the Violent Actions of the Aquino Puppet Regime!
We, the Palestinian Youth Movement - United States Branch, condemn the attack on the Kidapawan farmers of Northern Cotabato and demand the following. First, retract any remaining state forces in Northern Cotabato, especially police forces monitoring and surveilling injured farmers and their family members in hospitals. With that, we also call for the release of all detained farmers as well as a written, legally binding promise from the government that they will not seek retaliation against those who took part in the barricade.
We call into question the actions of President Aquino and various agencies in relation to the negligence of El Niño preparations, the potential misappropriation of calamity funds, and ultimately the siege on the farmers and indigenous activists who were protesting the disparate conditions these two actions created for their livelihood. Finally, we demand the release of the 15,000 sacks of rice so many have been waiting on as well as further subsidies for farming goods to account for drought, government negligence, and extreme poverty as a result. Our call responds to the demands of the millions of Filipinos in the homeland and the Diaspora who have waged a war against the brutality, repression, and corruption of the state and who call for justice, democratization, and an equal distribution of wealth and power.
Until now, at least three deaths have been confirmed, dozens are missing, and several hundred have been wounded after farmers shut down highways in Cotabato in an attempt to call attention to the widespread starvation and resource deprivation caused by a drought exacerbated by state negligence and neo-liberal economic structures funneling money to the elite. The use of Filipino state forces to corner, suppress, and disperse the masses is inherently unjust and is worsened by the fact that these farmers and their families mobilized for one simple demand; food.
Through state-induced global warming, neoliberal resource deprivation, and perpetual land-grabbing, the US-backed Aquino regime has been able to create a state of human dependency, malnourishment, and hegemonic control with no accountability to the international community. The ability for farmers to remain self-sufficient and have direct relations with food production has been destroyed by private land investments, selective resource allotment, and the intentional criminalization of land autonomy. Land, and legacies of indigenous knowledge that come with it, are systematically targeted by the Filipino government’s big business allies and consequently farmers are left to struggle with the land for the sake of private interests at the direct expense of their own well-being.
This withholding of an essential life force is strikingly similar to the manipulation of water and land access by Zionist forces in Palestine. Until this day, thousands of homes struggle without running water while their Zionist settler counterparts have exponential access, well beyond UN outlined numbers. Similarly, on a larger-scale, within the borders of historic 1948 Palestine colonized by the Zionist entity, water is abundant well beyond need despite the fact that it is Palestine’s economy that is significantly more dependent on agriculture. Life for Palestinians under siege in the Gaza Strip or under occupation in the West Bank which has become an archipelago divided by a concrete wall, electric fences, military outposts, checkpoints, and roadblocks, makes mobility and access to basic needs difficult if not impossible. As we Palestinians continue struggling for the liberation of our land and return of the refugees, our present day colonial context has now woven in elements of neo-liberal capitalism built through a national bourgeoisie and a neo-imperial comprador big bourgeoisie class of political elites. These actors have become pawns in systems of US/Zionist imposed economic blockades, colonial plunder through economic loans by the IMF, World Bank and international NGO’s, and strikingly resembles the attack on indigenous sovereignty transnationally including in the Philippines.
Though the situation in Mindanao is in itself is deplorable, what’s most troubling is the pathologization and criminalization of farmers seeking their rights for living. News articles refer to the farmers as inciters, blame them for their supposed violent actions, and claim opening fire was a last resort. Media discourse has proved itself to be an arm of the state in which the farmers are painted as ill-informed rebels who have willingly not chosen the path of diplomatic advocacy and imply the farmers were to eventually get their needs met by the government. As demands of of the farmers have been articulated long before this moment, the people have chosen all forms of civil resistance, diplomatic processes, and massive public protest to no avail or success with the government. Rather, they are continuously met by brute force, violence, and rapidly expanding land annexation and colonial plunder. An attempt to taint just actions with a false promise to ultimately alienate, dehumanize, and undermine the struggles of peasants and farmers will not be tolerated. The people will not concede on their most basic human right, the right to eat and the right to live freely in their own lands.
Accusations that farmers use children as shields are equally damaging, implying a sort of heartlessness in farmers who in fact find themselves at the heart of social justice oblivion and whose children are often central to the movement and the largest beneficiaries to social transformation. This also simultaneously erases the knowledges of the youth who know very well the nuanced violences their families face and whose knowledges have stemmed directly from living these violences firsthand. As a youth movement, we strongly resist all discursive efforts that paint children and young people as empty vessels awaiting consumption of knowledge. We believe children and youth who live in such conditions can articulate knowledge that the world can learn from and that they are active agents of social change. We believe they are the protagonists to this cause and not the victims of it.
This in particular is reminiscent of Lumad struggles for education. Youth in Lumad schools are taught a culturally relevant pro-people education from the vantage points of their own traditions and epistemologies from an early age. However, it is from their experiences with displacement, kidnappings, and death that require a deep exploration of how political theory is vexed with action and this is a site of power that must be encouraged by allies to the Filipino people and not criminalized or vilified. The art, music, and literature produced by autonomous youth reflects their drive to struggle against puppet regimes and ultimately reveals their immense stake in the plight of their communities.
This tendency to demonize families for youth activism as well as suppress youth voices is commonly manipulated among US as well as Zionist rhetorics. Zionist claims of youth coercion into activism is an intentional derailment from the fact that there are oppressions to mobilize around which shape and socialize every aspect of life for young Palestinians. To undermine the legitimacy of youth is an attempt to distract from the matters at hand and ultimately invisibilize the power and potential of resistance. It is intentional and cunning; by delegitimizing a generation, imperial powers are in turn seeking to stunt the movement from carrying over, attempting to sustain violence for one decade longer and to achieve a coerced consent by the masses that goes unchallenged at all odds.
However, this criminalization of families for raising powerful youth is ultimately a sign of resignation: to call into question youth presence reveals fear and it is this we must remind ourselves of when we take the streets to march for the Kidapawan Farmer, the Lumad, the Moro, the Palestinian, and all other colonial subjects: Power to the people, long live international solidarity! Rice not bullets! Save our schools! Makibaka! Youth, rise up! Long live the intifada!