Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee


by Atty Kaka J. Bag-ao

Nong Rene: farmer-paralegal...52 years old, born on March 14, 1957,
a father of four children, grandfather of two-month old infant

Ka Rene was a firm believer and advocate for farmers rights and agrarian reform. However, even in the most desperate moments of Ka Rene’s struggle to reclaim their land in Sumilao, Bukidnon, not once did he consider violence. Even when he stood face-to-face with the armed goons of their rich landlord he never considered lifting a finger in retaliation and meet violence with violence. Instead Ka Rene opted to take active non-violent means even if these meant making painful and difficult sacrifices such as the 28-day hunger strike in 1997 and the 1,700-kilometer walk from Sumilao to Manila in 2007. No murder is ever justifiable. But to kill a man who is a staunch advocate of peaceful means to protect and push for the rights of peasants, one who has never lifted a finger to hurt anyone, makes his murder ruthless, senseless and brutal. Ka Rene, a man of peace was shot with a shotgun at around 11pm while he, together with two companions were on their way home on June 5, 2009. He sustained 11 gunshot wounds – 3 in his chest and 8 all over his arms.

Ka Rene is a farmer leader and paralegal of the Sumilao farmers. He began as a very quiet person then but through the years of struggle and formation he was transformed into a passionate peasant leader with deeply rooted principles and vision. Ka Rene’s active involvement in local and national peasant struggles led him to become the chairperson of PALAMBU, a provincial farmer federation in Bukdinon, and vice -chairperson of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA).

He was one of the pioneer leaders of the MAPALAD farmers of Sumilao, Bukidnon who has staged hunger strike for 28 days in 1997 to protest the conversion of the agricultural land awarded to them through Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Ten (10) years after the hunger strike, together with the second generation Sumilao farmers, In October 2007 Ka Rene led the Sumilao Marchers in their 1,700-kilometer “Walk for land, Walk for Justice" from Sumilao to Malacañang to reclaim the 144-hectares of agricultural land from San Miguel Corporation. There was never a time when Ka Rene hesitated to take the lead in the campaign to reclaim the land that is rightfully theirs. For years, Ka Rene Peñas together with farmer groups in Mindanao and in the Philippines lived a life struggling and fighting for agrarian reform and social justice not only for their own lands but those of other farmers as well. Their triumph in reclaiming their 144-hectare land did not stop him from becoming actively involved in the struggles of others and in the struggle to push for CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER).

Undeniably, Ka Rene’s murder cannot be separated from the life he chose - that of fighting for the rights of the powerless and the poor like himself that put him at loggerheads with the interests of rich and the powerful. The cowardly act of violence he suffered is undeniably linked to his courageous struggle that threatened the interests of the wealthy and the mighty. Even on the hour of his death Ka Rene’s concern was the safety of his companions. colleague and stated “Lakaw namo kay kamatyonon nako” (Now, you must go and leave me, I am dying…) were his last words.

BALAOD Mindanaw and the peasant community will not be stunned by this brutal act that seeks to sow fear in our hearts. On the contrary, Ka Rene’s brutal death will inspire us emulate his courage and spirit of self-sacrifice. It will only fuel the fire in our hearts to continue with the struggle that we have shared with Ka Rene.


this is grim...
these fighters deserve not any of these oppressions.


i definitely agree. JUstice to ka rene and to all victims of extra-judicial killings!