Task Force Mapalad president Alberto Jayme speaks before landless farmers during a 2012 protest-rally at the DAR compound in Bacolod City, urging President Aquino to have a direct hand in the distribution of farms to landless peasants and the completion of CARP amid the dismal performance of DAR officials. Photo from TFM/Jimmy Domingo

Peasant leader from Negros, a hero to thousands of landless farmers nationwide, dies of heart attack

Negros News – Thousands of farmers belonging to national peasant federation Task Force Mapalad are mourning the death of TFM-Negros Chapter president Alberto A. Jayme, who led peasants to continue fighting for their rights to own the lands they till.

“Mabait, maunawain, masipag, matapang, mababa ang loob. Kahit sobrang pagod na hindi kailanman nagreklamo. ‘Yan si Nong Joy (Jayme) sa amin. S’ya ang isa sa pinagkukunan namin ng lakas at inspirasyon na ipagpatuloy namin ang pakikibaka para sa lupa,” says Terry Tarlac, TFM local community organizer-volunteer in Manapla town.

[He was kind, understanding, courageous, and humble. He would not complain even when he was already very tired. That was Nong Joy [Jayme] to us. He was among those whom we got our strength and inspiration from to continue our fight for land.]

The 50-year-old Jayme had been TFM-Negros president since 2009. He died of heart attack in the early morning of August 20, 2015, hours after he complained of chest pain and difficulty in breathing and was rushed to Riverside Medical Center in Bacolod City.

He was not only the leader among Negros farmers. He also led the 43,000-strong TFM farmer-members nationwide. TFM helps said farmers in over 8,0000 estates or landholdings in nine provinces namely Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Iloilo, Cagayan Valley, Nueva Ecija, Eastern Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Davao Oriental, and Bukidnon.

He was supposed to lead a series of meetings, forums, and dialogues among farmers in Negros to prepare for another major campaign in Manila in October this year to push for the passage of House Bill 4296 that seeks to complete the land acquisition and distribution phase of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and House Bill 4375 that seeks to create an independent Agrarian Reform Commission to review the actual accomplishment of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law with a view to cause these landholdings to be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries.

Jayme, among the 11 children of a poor peasant couple in Cadiz City, started working as a sacada at the age of nine. He was only able to own the land he was tilling for decades in 2013, when he was already 48 years old and during the 25th year of the CARP.

Jayme earlier said that he had struggled for 13 years to fight for his land rights under the CARP and that while working as a sacada, he only earned P20 to P30 a day, often eating bananas or sweet potato for breakfast, lunch, or dinner as his and his family’s income was not enough to buy rice.

“Napaiyak ako ng ma-install na ako sa lupa. Naalala ko ang sobrang hirap na pinagdanan ko at ng aking pamilya na nagkaroon ng bunga [I cried when I was installed on the land. I thought of the hardships that my family and I went through that bore fruit],” Jayme said last February as he shared during a forum with lawmakers in Quezon City how he had struggled and finally won his battle and why it was important to complete and overhaul the implementation of the CARP.

Jayme and his fellow farmworkers in 2013 became the owners of the 50-hectare Hacienda Erico in Cadiz, which used to be controlled by ariendador or lessee Jaynem See.

With the 2.58-hectare portion of the hacienda awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform to Jayme, the TFM peasant leader said in a statement last March that he was able increase his monthly income by 3,900 percent.

“Kulang-kulang lang po ng limandaang piso ang kinikita ko kada buwan noong ako’y farmworker pa. Ito po’y tumaas ng humigit-kumulang na P20,000 kada buwan matapos akong magkaron ng net income na aabot sa P240,000 per crop season sa pagtatanim ng tubo,” Jayme earlier said.

TFM farmer-leader Dorita Vargas said Negros farmers were very thankful to Jayme because he never left them in their battles even after he became a landowner.

Di s’ya sikat, mayaman, o makapangyarihan tulad ilang makasariling asendero at pulitiko na humaharang sa repormang agraryo. Pero si Nong Joy (Jayme) ay di makasarili, isa s’yang tunay na bayani para sa amin,” says the 66-year-old Vargas of Hacienda Canticbil-Manalo in Brgy. Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

[He was not famous, rich, or powerful like some selfish landlords and politicians blocking agrarian reform. But Nong Joy (Jayme) was selfless, he was our true hero.]

“Naalala ko, sabi n’ya (Jayme) sa amin, hindi daw s’ya magkakalupa kung hindi s’ya tinulungan ng kapwa n’ya magsasaka kaya di n’ya kami p’wedeng iwan sa aming pakikibaka,” added Vargas.

[I remember him telling us that he won’t be able to have his own land if he was not helped by his fellow farmers thus he can’t leave us alone in our battle.]

Jayme is survived by his wife Vilma and their children Vivianlyn, Alvie Mae Albert, and Kenneth. His remains lie in state at their residence in Brgy. Tinampaan, Cadiz City. His burial arrangement will be announced later.