A people’s conference was launched in Barangay Sugar, not a real name of a barangay in the Caraga region, to establish the barrio revolutionary committee (BRC) last December 2018.
The BRC is the basic unit of the people’s democratic government (PDG). Barangay Sugar consists of seven sitios and has a mixed population of 1,000 Lumads and non-Lumads.
Around 120 members of the local Party branch and mass organizations attended the conference. Several barangay officials and well-off individuals also attended. Party cadres from the guerilla front, Red fighters and invited observers were also in attendance. To ensure the delegates’ security, the people’s militia and the barrio defense units conducted round-the-clock patrols. The area’s guerilla front committee served as the conference host.
“The delegates ensured their attendance to the conference even though they were busy with their farms,” Ka Tabli, one of the delegates, said. Mothers even came with their toddlers. Red fighters served as babysitters while the conference was in session.
Before the conference started, sitio representatives relayed their social investigations and class analyses. Discussions where neighbors determined their class status were particularly lively. Most of them are farmworkers. “There was a bit of confusion,” a delegate admitted, “since there were farmers who had their own lands but because they earn so little, they often work for landlords. Are they small farmers or farm workers? Some don’t want to own up to being from the middle classes.”
The conference was held amidst intense AFP combat operations. In fact, soldiers were on a rampage in the next barrio when the conference started. Inspite of this, the conference pushed through and the agenda was set. It started with reports on the enemy movement and steps to ensure the safety of all the delegates, followed by presentations and reports of mass organizations, elections and planning.
During the formal meeting, the conference reviewed important Party guides and documents like the Revolutionary Guide to Land Reform and studies on how to establish organs of political power. Discussions on this topic were also lively, especially on the topic of the people’s court. An example was on how to deal with thefts of carabaos and other farm animals like chicken, pigs and others. There were also discussions on the AFP forcing civilians to surrender, E-CLIP and Red-tagging. To enliven the discussions, young delegates offered a cultural presentation.
One of the conference’s agenda dealt with ways to advance the agrarian revolution and uplifting the residents’ standard of living. Even before the BRC was organized, Barangay Sugar has been successful in some of its campaigns. It had successfully raised farmworker wages from P250 to P300/day. This was achieved through a dialogue with two rich peasants and two landlords.
“The rich peasants immediately complied while the landlords dismissed the agreement so the farmworkers decided to hold a second round of campaign against them. They complied only then,” Ka Jina, one of the hosts, related.
During that time, a memorandum was drafted and signed by third parties to make the agreement effective. Barangay officials, church people and teachers of the barangay served as witnesses. The farmworkers also managed to reclaim 10 hectares of land after they were driven away by a despotic landlord. The revolutionary mass organizations supervised the land distribution.
Elections for the KRB leadership, the local organ of political power, was conducted on the last day of the conference. “The delegates immediately knew whom to vote for,” Ka Tabli related. Among those elected have been tempered by revolutionary work. Most of them were poor peasants. During the elections, democracy was exercised.
“The results of the elections are very acceptable as all of the nominees are able to lead the people’s government,” Ka James, a member of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid, said.
The newly-elected committee studied and resolved past problems on how mass organizations in the area operated. “One of our weaknesses is that we only hold meetings when the people’s army is in our area. Thus, we are not able to carry out our tasks when they are not here,” Ka Mel, newly-elected BRC president, chided. “We should be able to resolve our own problems so that the people’s army can perform its other tasks.”
Ka Lapi, a Makibaka chapter member, was also elected to the BRC. Three out of her four children are Red fighters. One of them was martyred recently which saddened her but did not weaken her resolve. Her youngest, who is only 17-years old, is raring to join the people’s army.
Barangay Sugar is the first in its cluster to establish a BRC. Thus, one of its tasks is to help other chapters in establishing their own BRCs. Presently, most of the barangays in its cluster have chapters where 70% of the residents are already organized, but some are still in the organizing committee level.
After the elections, the conference concentrated on drafting ordinances and resolutions on issues and problems of their barangay. This includes an agreement to put up a cooperative, strengthening the people’s militia, security and ordinances regarding drinking alcohol, theft of carabaos and other farm animals, and other anti-social activities.
The BRC also drafted a one-year plan and program to carry out their tasks even without the presence of the people’s army. Among this is the task to complete the investigation so that they can launch the campaign against the false ancestral land certification (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title o CADT) and the granting of mining concessions to big companies this year. These companies are set to come into Barangay Sugar ang seven neighboring barangays. These barangays are rich in gold, copper and other minerals so its forested areas were deceptively covered by CADT to make mining the area easier.
The BRC also set the schedules for all committee meetings (economy, health, eduation, defense and organization). Its general plan included trainings and discussions per committee. These will be conducted during the members’ free days.
“The delegates’ joy that the their BRC had been established was plain to see,” Ka Tabli related. “They felt democracy and their power as a people during the conference.”
For the Lumads, farm workers and small famers who have long been oppressed and exploited under the present social system, the establishment of the BRC was one big step forward.