‘We Are Farmers. We Are Not Terrorists’
A Q&A with a Filipino activist leading the fight for the rights of peasant farmers in their homeland
Early in the morning of August 10, Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis, 72, was murdered by unidentified assailants in his apartment in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Echanis was the chairman of the left-wing Anakpawis Partylist, and deputy secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas — KMP, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines.
He joins a long list of human rights activists and farmers who, it is widely suspected, were killed by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte for fighting against feudal policies and defending the rights of peasants to own land.
Much of the farmland in the Philippines is concentrated in the hands of large corporations and wealthy families, a legacy largely shaped under centuries of Spanish colonial rule. In 1988, the government enacted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which stipulated that the state would acquire and redistribute land to peasant farmers. But fierce opposition from landowners meant that acquisition and redistribution of land fell far short of what was projected. Duterte campaigned on the populist promise of redistribution, but since taking office in 2016, not only has he failed to deliver that land, he has cracked down on those who dare to fight for it.
According to a joint statement by KMP, The Oakland Institute, and A Growing Culture, since Duterte came to power, there have been 288 documented killings of peasants, farmworkers, and fisherfolk related to land dispute cases and advocacy for agrarian reform, including 87 farmers since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights corroborated that since 2015, more than 40 legal professionals have been killed, many of whom were advocating for land rights for farmers and indigenous peoples.
Since Duterte came to power, there have been 288 documented killings of peasants, farmworkers, and fisherfolk related to land dispute cases and advocacy for agrarian reform, including 87 farmers since the beginning…