The 200K-strong Federation of Free Farmers back Escudero

Published February 17, 2022, 10:44 AM

by Mario Casayuran

The 200,000-strong Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) has declared its support for Sorsogon Governor Francis ‘’Chiz’’ Escudero, who is seeking a fresh six-year term in Senate come the May 9, 2022 elections.

(Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero FB)

According to FFF–one of the biggest mass-based organizations of farmers, fisherfolks, and agricultural tenants and workers in the Philippines–Escudero deserves to be elected again to the Senate for his advocacy to promote the interests of the agriculture sector.

FFF Board Chairman Leonardo Montemayor, who was Secretary of Agriculture under the Arroyo administration, announced on Tuesday, Feb. 16 the endorsement of Escudero.

The federation is described by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the most “effective non-government organizations of rural workers in the Philippines”.

According to Montemayor, the board’s decision was based on the senatorial candidate’s “outstanding record of public service and firm support for our agricultural sector, especially on critical concerns like Philippine membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade agreement”.

It can be recalled that Escudero, a veteran legislator, has urged his former colleagues in the 24-member upper chamber to carefully review the terms stipulated under the RCEP before ratifying the trade pact.

He has asked the senators to assess the long-term impact of the RCEP on agriculture, particularly on farmers and fisherfolks who are considered the poorest in the Philippines.

Montemayor also said that groups belonging to the FFF are opposing the ratification of the trade deal because local producers are unprepared to compete under RCEP’s free trade regime.

The RCEP treaty is up for debate when the Senate resumes regular session on May 23 after the May 2022 national and local elections.

According to Montemayor, Escudero and four other candidates the FFF is endorsing have pledged to work closely with the group in “setting up honest-to-goodness safety nets and competitiveness-enhancement measures in agriculture and reversing the government’s reliance on food importation instead of domestic production”.

The FFF is the first non-government organization to support Escudero’s comeback bid to the Senate. Several party-list groups, namely Ang Kabuhayan, ARISE, An Waray, Kusog Bikolandia, and Magdalo, have already declared that they are endorsing him.

The tandems of Senator Panfilo ‘’Ping’’ Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis ‘’Kiko’’ Pangilinan, and Senator Emmanuel ‘’Manny’’ Pacquiao and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza have all adopted Escudero in their respective senatorial slates.

UniTeam vice presidential candidate and incumbent Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte and mayors from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Eastern Samar who belong to the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) have likewise endorsed Escudero.