The Plight of the Displaced Population
By Federico Y. Ayson
As usual it is the innocent bystander that gets hurt
February 22, 1947–THE decision of President Roxas to wipe out vestiges of lawlessness and banditry in Central Luzon and adjacent provinces carries more social and agrarian import than meets the eye. The extermination of these roving, elusive lawless elements would go a long way, so it is hoped, towards the early establishment of normalcy in these areas. But the top government brass should also know that it will bring to an end a condition that is undermining the confidence and faith of hundreds of rural families now evacuated to towns in the troubled zones.
In Tarlac province—or in any other province harrassed by these lawless groups for that matter—many farm people have been forced to evacuate to town suburbs and poblaciones. From barrios and sitios where encounters between government agents and the dissidents were anticipated, the populace was ordered to move into safer areas of refuge. These migrations started as early as last October after the palagad (early crop) was harvested. From then on up to as late this week, (February 7) they have continued in anticipation of a full scale operation to be pursued with relentless, volcanic fury until the very last bandit is rounded up. For so it was rumored.
To obtain a comprehensive, realistic view of the overall situation that led to this exodus of farmers, we need to focus our observation on the barrios and remote sitios of La Paz, Concepcion, Victoria, Capas, Bamban, and Tarlac. Barrio populations of these towns bordering the Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Pampanga boundaries have sought sanctuary along national highways, provincial roads and in the poblaciones, carting their harvest, scanty essential personal belongings, poultry, etc., with them.
Huddled close together, the evacues have thrown together make-shift bamboo and cogon dwellings they call their homes. Clusters of these thatched affairs dot both sides of highways and provincial roads. The congestion, the abject poverty and filth cannot escape attention. Practice of sanitary measures in general, is nil. Added to the squalor is the food problem of Mr. and Mrs. Barrio Farmer. Food reserves which they expected to tide them over to the rainy season have been seriously depleted.
The problem of these people goes deeper than the congestion in housing; it transcends questions of hygienic and sanitary ways of living. They are looking forward to the fulfilment of promises to restore peace and order. They know that in the vast rehabilitation plans of President Roxas, their contribution can best be made on their home farms. They dream of peace—the genuine, lasting kind of peace that will enable them to return home and till the soil and produce.
To them, the issue is no longer one of social or agrarian progress. From their experiences it is wholly a matter of plain banditry—robbers spreading terror, plundering and murdering with innocent farmers and their families bearing the brunt. They know that the administration is instituting colossal agricultural reforms. They interpret the promulgation of the 70-30 crop sharing measure, among others, as an example of an enlightened, progressive agrarian policy.
The plight of this displaced farm population seems to be ignored at present because the recent harvest has pushed aside the spectre of famine. In addition, the administrations attention is concentrated on the March 11 plebiscite. So the problems of these “little giants of the farm” are temporarily relegated to the background. However, if we are to restore normal agricultural production, their desires must be attended to, before it’s too late. We cannot guarantee national stability if the farms do not meet the food needs of the people. We must not expect self-sufficiency in sustenance from the soil if our farmers are huddling for protection in the suburbs of towns.
That is why these displaced farm people are restless. They rejoice that the government has progressed from parleying and temporizing to a firm, tenacious and determined policy. The sooner the whole mess is cleaned up, the earlier they can go back to their farms. For only them will there be security of life and property, so they can work and produce. On them—these displaced farm people—depends to an appreciable degree the success or failure of our economic progress. Let us attend to them.