From February 20 to 22, 2013, PAKISAMA held its 8th Congress at the Institute of Social Order, Ateneo de Manila. 99 delegates and observers from 42 member-organizations of PAKISAMA all over the Philippines participated in the event. The Congress aims to explore new prospects for People’s Organizations in the Philippines, discuss PAKISAMA’s plans and policies, and celebrate its 26th anniversary.
Celebrating 26 Years
PAKISAMA was established on August 1986. From its inception, PAKISAMA has been committed to its advocacy for peasant groups in the country. It started with land and asset reform advocacy for small farmers, but soon expanded to fight for the rights of fishers, indigenous peoples, rural women, and youth as well. To date, it is one of the biggest existing peasant-led organizations in the Philippines. The Congress also served as a celebration of PAKISAMA’s 26th year together with its partners.
Groundwork and Pre-Congresses
The 8th Congress of PAKISAMA was preceded by Pre-Congresses by the three main island regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas,and Mindanao. Each member-federation of PAKISAMA were also required to pass a resolution identifying who their official delegate will be, and also to pay for the P3,000.00 Congress dues. The dues collected amounted to P102,000.00, and will be added to PAKISAMA’s endowment fund to strengthen its financial stability. These preparatory activities initiated and managed by PAKISAMA’s Secretariat ensured the Congress’ smooth conduct. In fact, Mr. Ireneo Cerilla, newly elected President of PAKISAMA, named the 8th Congress as the “smoothest of all Congresses of our organization.”
The 8th Congress approved three major revisions in PAKISAMA’s Consitution and By-Laws (CBL). The first revision was the the transition of PAKISAMA’s organizational structure from a Presidential System to a Parliamentary System, where the formerly separate Executive Committee will be chosen by the 15 National Council members from amongst themselves through a voting system. This decision was reached through PAKISAMA’s experience, where it realized the need for the executive bodies to be accountable to the law-making bodies, and vice versa. The second revision was the formation of a Supreme Court as an independent mediating body within PAKISAMA. With the Supreme Court, power will not be fully centralized in the National Council. The third and last major revision in the CBL is the acceptance of primary organizations as members of PAKISAMA. Initially, PAKISAMA only accepted federations of base or primary organizations. However, PAKISAMA discovered that at times, a federation may be non-functioning, but its base organizations are flourishing. The third revision was made to accommodate primary organizations which can stand by themselves. These revisions are definitely critical, as recognized by Mr. Raul Socrates “Soc” Banzuela, PAKISAMA’s National Coordinator, who said, “These structural changes will set a new direction for PAKISAMA.”
Recognizing Good Practices and Opening Doors of Opportunity
The 8th Congress also served as a venue for PAKISAMA to showcase its best practices, and to explore new areas of partnership with government agencies and non-government bodies as well. During the first half of the second day of the Congress, three guest speakers, Mr. Butch Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Congressman Cres Paez of the Coop NATCCO Party List, and Mr. Ed de la Torre of the Department of Agriculture (DA) discussed prospects for PAKISAMA in Philippine electoral politics, mainstream agri-business, and sustainable agriculture. Noteworthy results of the discussion was the resolution passed by the Congress to create a technical working group for Sustainable Agriculture to join the DA, and also to create a party-list committee that will focus on the creation and registration of PAKISAMA’s party-list.
On the second half of the second day of the Congress, three member-organizations of PAKISAMA presented their successful experiences with asset reform, while three other member-organizations presented their experiences with Agri-Business. These presentations helped inspire other members of PAKISAMA, and strengthened their resolve to improve their situation.
Through the 8th Congress, new leaders of PAKISAMA were identified. Fifteen members of the National Council were elected. Three are from LAKAMBINI, who are Ms. Mela Gapanao of Luzon, Ms. Soledad Yetyet from Visayas, and Ms. Aida Paglinawan of Mindanao. Another three are from MAMAMAYAN, who are Mr. Enrique Candia of Luzon, Mr. Romeo Torcuator of Visayas, and Mr. Gideo Ompoy of Mindanao. Three are from Luzon, namely Mr. Ernesto Cleofe of BINHI, Albay, Mr. Samuel Fuellas of SAMBA, and Mr. Ireneo Cerilla of UGMA. Another three are from Visayas, namely Ms. Rosa Dumagan of CARMENSNMPC, Mr. Benedicto Aquillo of KAMPI, and Mr. Herminio Agsalona of PATANOM. The last three are from Mindanao, namely Ms. Cerilia Oyoa of AGUKAKABA, Mr. Gerardo Magbanua of KPMD, and Mr. Prudencio Geronimo of ARFEDACCO. The Supreme Court is also composed of voted representatives from each main island region: Mr. Roger Magyaya for Luzon, Mr. Crispino Aguelo for Visayas, and Mr. Benedicto Pastera for Mindanao. From among these 15 members of the National Council, the elected Chairperson is Mr. Benedicto Aquillo, with Mr. Samuel Fuellas as Vice-Chairperson. The President is Mr. Ireneo Cerilla, while the Vice-President is Mr. Prudencio Geronimo. Committee Heads are as follows: LPAD – Mr. Gerado Magbanua, MGD – Ms. Cheryl Oyoa, SAAD – Mr. Romeo Torcuator, RBLD – Mr. Ernesto Cleofe, and Party-List – Ms. Mela Gapanao. Mr. Cerilla, President of PAKISAMA, recognized the just representation of the entire membership of PAKISAMA in leadership, stating that “the main island regions are represented in the current set of elected leaders of the National Council and the Executive Committee.”
Recognizing Martyrs and Partners
The 8th Congress duly recognized the valuable contributions of its three leader-martyrs, Mr. Rene Peñas, Mr. Vicente Paglinawan, and Ms. Florita Caya who are all from Mindanao. Each of these leaders was shot to death, and their cases have still not been brought to justice. PAKISAMA believes that these leaders were killed because of their struggle for farmers and indigenous people’s rights. These martyrs continue to inspire the present leaders of PAKISAMA.
PAKISAMA also recognized the contributions of its partners to its development. These partners organizations, namely the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources or PhilDHRRA, The People’s Campaign for Agrarian Reform Network, Inc. or ARNow!, Asian Farmers Association or AFA, Agriterra, and the International Land Coalition or ILC. Partner-individuals were also awarded, including Ms. Dinky Soliman, Mr. Butch Olano, Ms. Esther Penunia – Banzuela, Mr. Donato Macasaet, and Ms. Louise Lampon.
PAKISAMA also thanked its volunteer-COMELEC, Mr. Antonio Salvador of IDEALS, Ms. Roselle Rasay of CODE-NGO, and Mr. Joel Pagsanghan of PhilDHRRA.
The Congress ended with a solidary night together with guests, with the performance of Mr. Joey Ayala. Guests, staff, farmers, fishers, rural women, rural youth, and indigenous peoples joined and celebrated together. At the end of the Congress, PAKISAMA was looking at a positive present and future. It truly seemed that PAKISAMA, in the words of its former Chairperson Mr. Vicente Fabe, is “the biggest and strongest peasant organization in the country.”