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6 farmers arrested in Bulacan

Six of the 14 Norzagaray, Bulacan farmers charged with theft for harvesting their own crops have been arrested by the police Monday night, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

In an alert, the farmers’ group said Salvacion Abonilla, John Jason Abonilla, Jenny Capa, Marilyn Olpos, Catherine Magdato, and Eden Gualberto were taken to the police station in Norzagaray at past seven o’clock in the evening last January 18.

All are members of the Samahang Magsasaka ng San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) and are residents of Sitio Compra, Barangay San Mateo.

The farmers were charged with theft after Royal Mollucan Realty Holdings Inc. (RMRHI) guards alleged they chanced on the six and eight others harvesting coconuts and bananas inside a 75.5-hectare disputed property.

The farmers said it could not have been theft if they were harvesting the crops they themselves planted on a property that their elders have tilled when the area was still wilderness.

The KMP denounced the arrests as harassment of the farmers who have a more legitimate claim to the land than the realty company.

It also denounced the Philippine National Police for “abetting a landgrabber” and for violating a court of Appeals decision ordering the Office of the President to award the land to agrarian reform program beneficiaries.

The disputed property had been placed in a Notice of Coverage as well as Compulsory Acquisition under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

“Since the 1950s, peasant families lived and tilled the agricultural lands located in Sitio Compra, Brgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan. Around 50 families cultivate the 75-hectare land planted with rice, corn, varieties of vegetables, and other crops,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ ancestors were tenants who paid land rent to the family of former landowner Roman Aquino, the group added.

The KMP revealed that the arrested women farmers were forced to leave their young children unattended at their homes as their husbands are all away for work.

The group also recalled that in February and October 2019, Royal Mollucan demolished a total of 38 houses within the farmers’ community, forcing farmers to leave their farms and look for livelihood outside the fenced agricultural land.

The KMP said the arrested farmers have no money to pay for bail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bulacan LGU destroys crops and trees

A local government unit destroyed a 2.7-hectare farmland planted with vegetables and mature fruit-bearing trees last January 16 in Bulacan province, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reported.

Hundreds of crop-bearing trees were destroyed and flattened by members of the San Jose Del Monte City Public Order and Safety Office (SJDM-POSO) last Saturday, reportedly upon the instructions of a relative of Mayor Arthur Robes.  

The relative was identified as a certain Obet Robes.

The farmland tilled by the Ajose family in Sitio Dalandanan, Barangay Tungkong Mangga in the said city was bulldozed, destroying crops including banana trees, pineapples, root crops, and eggplants, the KMP said.

According to the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Dalandanan (SAMAGDA), a local affiliate of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan-KMP, the SJDM City Hall POSO employees went to the farmland presenting a canceled Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and insisted that the farmers vacate the land.

SJDM City Hall POSO employees at the Ajose home asking the family to vacate the land. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The Ajose family said the POSO employees did not present a writ of execution or a court order for the bulldozing of their farmland, the farmers’ group said.

The destruction of the crops was said to be permitted by Mayor Arthur Robes, invoking his rights as the Mayor based on RA 8797 that converted SJDM as a component city, the group added.

Jhulian Ajose, whose parents started tilling the parcel of land in the 1990s, lamented the destruction of their crops.

“Bakit niyo kami pinaalis sa tinataniman naming lupa? Dito lang kami kumukuha ng kinabubuhay at pagkain namin, ng pang-paaral. Sa lupa na ito, dito kami umaasa. Ektaryang pananim ang sinira nyo!,” Ajose said. (Why are you driving us away from the land we are tilling. This is our source of livelihood, food and education expenses. We rely on this land. You have destroyed hectares of crops!)

“Hindi ninyo alam kung gaano ang hirap ng mga magulang namin. Sa bawat pagpapagal, sa bawat patak ng dugo at pawis, sa bawat sugat na tinatamo sa pagbubungkal at pagtatanim sa lupa na ito. Wala kayong awa sa mga katulad namin,” he added. (You have no idea of the hardships our parents have undergone, their efforts, their every drop of blood and sweat, their every injury for tilling this land. You have no pity for the likes of us.)

A San Jose del Monte City backhoe destroying banana crops at the Ajose farm. (Photo by Jhulian Ajose through the KMP)

The KMP said that the farmers of Barangay Tungkong Mangga, one of the few remaining agricultural villages in SJDM, had been suffering development aggression and intensifised landgrabbing since the MRT-7 depot and train station projects started.

“Land grabbing and land-use conversion are prevalent in SJDM, among the prime targets of land developers and real estate corporations such as the Villar family-owned Vista Land and Landscapes Inc. The city is being developed by the local government as a ‘New Super City’ and Metro Manila’s gateway to Central Luzon,” the KMP said.

More than a thousand farming families are threatened once the MRT-7 project is completed, wiping out 588 hectares of agricultural lands in Tungkong Mangga,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Landgrabber’ harasses 14 Bulacan farmers with theft charges–KMP

Fourteen farmers harvesting coconut and banana crops were charged with theft by a private company in Norzagaray, Bulacan, a farmers’ group reported.

In an urgent alert, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the “landgrabbing” Royal Mollucan Realty Holding Inc. (RMHI) continues its harassment of members of the Samahang Magsasaka sa San Mateo (SAMA-SAMA) and charged the farmers with theft for harvesting their own crops.

RMHI alleged its guards chanced upon the farmers taking coconuts and bananas inside the 75.5-hectare disputed property at Sitio Comra, Barangay San Mateo.

The Office of the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor recommended a PhP6,000 bail for each of the farmers.

The KMP however said the property the company claims it owns had been placed under a Notice of Coverage under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

RMHI has failed in its legal manoeuvres to have the property exempted from CARP, the KMP added.

The group added that the Court of Appeals has ruled with finality that the land should already be awarded to the members of SAMA-SAMA in accordance with an order from the Office of the President.

“But the Norzagaray Municipal Agrarian Reform Office and the Bulacan Provincial Agrarian Reform Office have been foot-dragging,” KMP said.

Armed personnel of Royal Mollucan Realty Holdings Inc.. (KMP photo)

In its desperation, RMHI had been violent to the farmer-beneficiaries, demolishing their houses, destroying their crops, burned farming equipment, fenced-off agricultural plots and drove away farmers, KMP revealed.

The farmer-beneficiaries have been tilling the property for three decades already, the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP, PNP troops kill 5 mango orchard workers in Rizal

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) killed five mango orchard workers in Baras, Rizal last Thursday, December 17, human rights and peasant groups reported.

Troops belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) of the AFP and the Region IV-A Command of the PNP killed Carlito Zonio, Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Jonathan Alberga, and Niño Alberga, workers of a mango farm in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan of the said town, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

The AFP said the 2:30 AM incident was a shootout with members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The AFP added they conducted the pre-dawn raid to serve a warrant of arrest to a certain Antonio Cule that resulted in an encounter and the death of the victims.

Brigadier General Alex Rillera, 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, said two of the victims were “Ka Sandra” and “Ka Onli” of the NPA.

Philippine Army social media accounts also alleged the victims were NPA members, one of them was even a “top spy” for the group.

But Karapatan-ST, quoting eyewitnesses and the victims’ neighbors, said Zonio,  Salabao, and Obmerga were farm caretakers and mango tree sprayers while the Albergas were guards.

The victims had been workers at the farm in the last three years.

Marco Valbuena, Communist Party of the Philippines public information officer, denied the victims were NPA members.

“We denounce the AFP’s peddling of fake news to cover up their criminal responsibility in the Baras 5 Massacre,” Valbuena said in a tweet.

PNP refuses to release cadavers

The police took the remains of the victims to the Antipolo Memorial Homes but refused to release the cadavers of three of the victims to their families.

The remains of the guards were handed over to their relatives.

The Karapatan-ST fact-finding team also complained of harassment by PNP teams when they assisted families of the three in retrieving their cadavers from the funeral home Monday night, December 21.

Police officers demanded that members of the fact-finding team alight from their vehicles and present their identification cards.

The human rights workers refused.

The harassment continued last December 22 at the Antipolo police station where a Karapatan paralegal was isolated and forced to erase photos from his camera.

In a statement, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) joined Karapatan and the peasant organizations affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in condemning “yet another state-sponsored massacre.”

SAKA said, “Instead of counting presents this holiday season, the Filipino people are counting corpses.”

The murder of the so-called Baras 5 raises the peasant death toll under President Rodrigo Duterte to 295, SAKA added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More rights violations with Sinas as top cop, groups warn

A farmers’ group and a human rights organization warned that more rights abuses will follow National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) commander Major General Debold Sinas’s appointment as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Following the announcement by Malacanan Palace that the controversial officer is the country’s next top cop, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Sinas’ record is enough proof that the police would be further tainted with more human rights violations once he assumes command.

The group said Sinas is accountable for Oplan Sauron in Negros it blames for the deaths,   arrests, and detention of farmers and activists during his stint as Central Visayas Regional Police Office chief.

“Sinas is also behind the arrests of Manila-based activists including Reina Mae Nasino. Sinas is also on the hook for the still unresolved brutal killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis last August 10,” the KMP said in a statement.

Sinas, described by the KMP as an “attack dog” of President Rodrigo Duterte, will replace outgoing PNP Chief Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

The police general also courted widespread condemnation by celebrating his birthday last March with a party at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite a government-imposed ban on gatherings.

The KMP said that with Sinas at the PNP’s helm the public must expect for the worst from the police and remain vigilant at all times.

“The PNP only serves at the pleasure of the President who terrorizes the people on a daily basis,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said it is not surprised at Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief as Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators with rank promotions.

Karapatan warned that with Sinas’s appointment, ”a bloody party of human rights violations” is sure to follow.

“Duterte’s most rabid and murderous lapdogs are given freer rein to merrily kill, kill, and kill with wanton impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said it fears Sinas will continue the Duterte government’s “sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists.”

The group recalled that the Commission on Human Rights reported the increase of drug-related killings in Central Visayas from July 2018 to October 2019 when he was police chief in the region.

“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted,” Karapatan said.

“[T]his fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Filipino rice farmers need support, not liberalization

by IBON Media & Communications

In a statement, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) acting secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said: “The Philippines generally does not have a natural comparative advantage in rice production compared with neighbors like Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar which all have large flat plains, fewer or no typhoons, less history of land inequality, and access to the Mekong River system, which serves as a great source of natural irrigation, as well as lower population growth rates.”

On that basis, NEDA argues that rice liberalization is the logical thing to do and that the Rice Liberalization Law (RLL, or Republic Act 11203) is already benefiting the country. The problem with this argument is that it treats food security like a game that you lose just because you do not have the right starting conditions. That’s a free market-based argument that only has a semblance of sense in economics textbooks.

In the real world, and as proven by the experience of literally every successful developed economy, comparative advantage can and should be modified with government intervention. Chua omits how government neglect and policies like the Rice Liberalization Law (RLL) are what undermine Philippine rice production and domestic agriculture. The Philippines can improve productivity, increase production, and provide enough rice for Filipinos with sufficient government support to rice farmers and the rice sector. The government’s defeatist attitude and blind surrender to market forces is the biggest reason why Philippine rice production and domestic agriculture as a whole remains so backward.

The RLL is captive to that narrow-minded thinking and just makes things worse.

Misplaced praise

NEDA hails the Rice Competitive Enhancement Fund (RCEF), a component of the RLL, which supposedly guarantees Php60 billion pesos from rice importation revenues for six years. RCEF will supposedly help rice farmers to modernize and innovate. This seems to be helping rice farmers.

Instead, RLL is killing the rice industry. Over a year into RLL and because of unrestrained rice importation, palay prices have fallen to as low as Php8-10 per kilo. This is a huge 50% drop from the Php20 per kilo price of palay before the law was passed. Rice farmers have cumulatively lost some Php84.8 billion in earnings in the first full year of implementation or around Php35,328 per rice farmer. Earnings are not enough to pay for the cost of production.

As a result, farmers from Philippine rice granaries such as Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Laguna and Mindanao are already thinking to stop planting rice. At least 3,000 rice mills have already stopped operating.

Farmers were facing worse prospects for selling palay even before the RLL. The government earlier clipped the powers of the National Food Authority (NFA) to influence and support the price of rice in the market by restricting the amount of palay and rice it buys locally .

RCEF claims to enhance farmers’ competitiveness through mechanization, seeds distribution and trainings. However, its coverage is actually limited and can even aggravates farmers’ indebtedness.

RCEF reportedly aims to cover 1.9 million rice farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and Department of Agriculture (DA)-accredited rice cooperatives and associations. This still leaves out at least half a million rice farmers. The Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) has for instance already estimated that the annual Php10 billion RCEF allocation will not be enough to offset the losses that RLL causes rice farmers, which it computes to be between Php60-Php110 billion.

Loans may also just worsen indebtedness if productivity or earnings do not increase much and if farmers’ expenses are still too high. Loans are too easily eaten up by production costs such as for expensive commercial seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and tools. The government does not make any effort to make these more affordable. Landless farmers may just end up using loans to pay their land rent to landlords.

These are why so many government loan programs have just kept so many farmers in a cycle of debt. The Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) and the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) also provide rural credit. RCEF and the older ACEF and SIDA reportedly make Php2.1 billion in funds available for easy credit to rice farmers. About Php2.5 billion of ACEF funds were allegedly lost to corruption in 2014. Meanwhile, stakeholders lament that SIDA funds reportedly amounting to some Php2 billion per year since 2015 have so far been underutilized.

Worsening neglect

NEDA’s negativity about the country’s rice industry glosses over the government’s accountability for the agriculture sector’s backwardness because of its long-standing neglect. Government policies on land and food such as the RLL, relying on imported agricultural products, allowing rampant land use conversion, and flawed land reform only worsen the impact of this neglect.

The agriculture sector shed over one million jobs between 2017 to 2019 which is the most jobs lost in a 3-year period in 21 years. The sector’s 2.1% average annual growth in the same period was below its 3.5% average annual growth for 70 years from 1947-2016. Agriculture’s share in gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen to its smallest in Philippine history at 7.8 percent. The agricultural trade deficit in 2018 was also the largest in the country’s history at US$8 billion.

Agriculture is still such a significant part of the economy and these signs of weakness point to how much needs to be done to bolster the sector. And yet, under the Duterte administration, the budget for agriculture and agrarian reform averaged just a measly 3.6% of the total national budget annually from 2017 to 2019. This is even slashed further to just 1.6% in 2021. This means that the government’s capacity to support farmers with facilities, subsidies and other assistance is declining.

Rice farming households are also among those who will not be getting any more cash assistance. Although agricultural production was among the least affected sectors by the pandemic, earnings from rice farming are so poor that many rural families also rely on various odd-jobs in the informal sector which have been adversely affected. Yet the proposed 2021 budget for cash assistance has been reduced to just Php9.9 billion from over Php260 billion under the emergency Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws.

Support our producers

The Philippines’ annual average rice self-sufficiency ratio over the last 30 years was 91% and the country was 93% rice self-sufficient as of 2017. Yet rice can be much cheaper and the country can be fully self-sufficient if only there was enough support, subsidies and facilities for the country’s 2.4 million rice farmers. We do not have to import our staple food and rice farmers can have decent incomes.

Why do we have to risk not having rice on the table from rice-exporting countries stopping exports to make sure that they have enough to feed their own people? How sure are we that the price of rice will remain stable if domestic production remains backward and global rice prices are volatile?

Why make our farmers suffer? Along with other producers, they provide the nation with food to eat, yet they are among the poorest.

The government is liberalizing the critical rice sector out of blind adherence to so-called free market and globalization policies. All this does is create opportunities for giant agribusiness corporations to make even more profits from selling their expensive, chemical-laden, unhealthy, and environmentally-destructive products.

Filipino farmers have to deal with so many man-made woes aside from the vagaries of the weather. Yet they are not passive to these. Farming communities nationwide practice sustainable agriculture. These should be recognized and supported. Indigenous peoples’ schools teach organic agriculture and oppose corporate encroachment on their lands. These should be hailed not vilified or shut down.

Peasant organizations struggle for their own land to till. They deserve to be given these as well as given the means to make these productive. Precarious rural incomes and livelihoods should become a thing of the past. And, as every Filipino deserves, farming communities should have decent education, health and housing as well as the conveniences of water, electricity, telecommunications and transport. In all of these, the government’s role in running an economy for the people is the most important intervention of all. #

KMP: No tributes to Cojuangco from farmers

Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco died last night, Tuesday, June 16, at an expensive private hospital in Quezon City due to, according to a news report, lung cancer. He was 85.

All news stories about him so far describe him as a business tycoon, a sportsman, a sports patron, a philanthropist, and political kingmaker. His death even merited a message from Malacañan Palace. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, Jr.,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

None of the announcements and reports has yet to call Cojuangco what he was accused of for most of his life, a crony of Ferdinand Marcos. In fact, Cojuangco was not just a crony but was said to be the biggest one.  In an article in December 30, 1990, the Los Angeles Times described him as “second only to Marcos in the systematic looting of the Philippines.”

The sector who complains to this day that they were wronged by Cojuangco is one of the country’s poorest: coconut farmers.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said they cannot condole with the family of the deceased, as the Ph105-billion coco levy fund Cojuangco was accused of pocketing in the heydays of the Marcos dictatorship and plunder remain unreturned and unremitted to its true owners.

“Patay na si Danding Cojuangco Jr., hindi pa naibabalik sa mga magsasaka ng niyog ng pondo ng coco levy na dinambong ng mga promotor ng coco levy fund scam,” KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement hours after the announcement of Cojuangco’s death.

It was said that Cojuangco used the coco levy fund to acquire companies, land, banks and other businesses that made him not just one of the richest men in the Philippines but throughout the world.

Danding and Marcos

The book “Some Are Smarter Than Others” by former exile and national librarian Ricardo Manapat described Cojuangco as one of Marcos’ closest and most loyal cronies. They have in fact developed interlocking godfatherships of their sons and grandsons.  Danding even named his eldest son Marcos Cojuangco.

Their business partnership started with rice importations that also involved Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose Aspiras, two other cronies. And when he faced the possibility of being summoned to testify in United States courts in connection with charges of monopolizing coconut trading, Marcos appointed him “Ambassador-at-Large” to prevent that from happening.

At the height of his power under the Marcos dictatorship, Manapat said Cojuangco controlled corporate assets worth $1.5 billion which at the time was 25% of the country’s gross national product. In an April 2, 1990 report, the Wall Street Journal reported that Cojuangco was into rice cartels, sugar, flour, groceries, cement and soft drinks aside from coconut, sugar, agri-business, banking and others.

Danding’s wealth enabled him to own vast land holdings in Central Luzon, Central Visayas and Palawan where he kept hundreds of high-powered firearms wielded by hundreds of guards who were reportedly trained by Israeli mercenaries. He also collected Ferraris and Rolls Royces and owned expensive race horses imported from all over the world, the book revealed.

The coco levy fund

The coco levy fund was the biggest taxation scheme in the country at the time of its imposition in 1971. It exacted taxes on coconut meat produced by farmers amounting to billions of pesos and allowied both Cojuangco and Juan Ponce Enrile to become major players in the global trade of coconut products.

The fund the levy created was supposed to be spent for support activities within the industry, collected from farmers as soon as they sold their products to traders. They were supposed to be issued receipts as proof of their ownership of the fund but majority of them never received the receipts. None of them benefitted from the fund and have in fact suffered because of it due to lowered incomes.

Manapat’s book said that at the height of the coco levy’s implementation, the coconut farmers only earned $19 a month on the average. This meant that they could only afford 10% of the minimum requirement for their family’s food.  Years after Marcos had been deposed and the coco levy fund was ordered by the Supreme Court to be given back to its real owners, many beneficiaries have died still demanding to given back the money owed them.

Nearly a president

But Danding remained rich and powerful after his friend and benefactor was deposed. He never went to jail and kept control of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and other big businesses. He was even a candidate for the presidency in the 1992 national elections.

The KMP revealed that in 1998, when his good friend Joseph Estrada was elected president, Cojuangco’s 4,661-hectare landholding in Negros Occidental spanning two cities and seven towns were exempted from actual land distribution through a joint agribusiness venture between the ECJ Corporation and 1,200 Certificate of Land Ownership Award holders.

Danding’s SMC is also the primary initiator of flexible labor policies in the country that promoted contractual labor and laid off tens of thousands of workers across SMC companies, the KMP said in its statement.

“Danding Cojuangco Jr. is the embodiment of the landlord-comprador-bourgeoisie ruling class who have enriched and empowered themselves through exploiting the Filipino masses, especially workers and farmers,” Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Farmers are seeking for urgent production subsidy’

“Farmers are seeking for urgent production subsidy to aid them in cropping and food production. However, DA chose to channel the budget to projects that are vulnerable to corruption.

The projects listed by DA under ALPAS-COVID all have lump sum budget without specific details on the actual implementation and target beneficiaries. We demand full transparency on the utilization of funds as well as the list of beneficiaries who have received cash aid, loans, and other assistance from DA and its agencies.”

Danilo Ramos
Chairperson,
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

Carlo Francisco

Ika-33 anibersaryo ng masaker sa Mendiola, ginunita

Nagtipon sa tulay ng Mendiola sa Maynila ang mga progresibong grupo sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas upang gunitain ang masaker na pumatay sa 13 magsasaka noong 1987.

Kasabay ng panawagan ng hustisya para sa mga martir ng Mendiola ay ang pagpapatuloy ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines na ang susunod na adyenda ay ang Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms kabilang na ang tunay na reporma sa lupa para sa mga magsasaka. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Mendiola ng buhay natin

Ni Prop. Rolando Tolentino, PhD

Unang sinulat ng may-akda ang piyesang ito noong Enero 2008. Kahapon, Enero 22, ginunita ang ika-33 anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre. Wala pa ring katarungan para sa mga biktima ng krimen.

Malalaki ang bilang na dumadalo ng mga rali noon. Libo-libo, madalas umaabot din ng daan-daang libo. Kasagsagan pa ng People Power I, at kahit pa marami nang nanamlay sa kilusan at bumalik sa gawi ng gitnang uring pagnanasa, mas marami ang nanatili sa hanay.

Nasa kilusang kabataan at estudyante ako noong 1987, kasama ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines. Sa panahong ito, pinapalawak ang pambansang kasapian. Binubuhay ang mga rehiyon at eskwelahang nawalan ng ugnay sa organisasyon. Pinapaigting rin ang ugnay sa iba pang organisasyong pangkabataan at iba pang sektor.

Malaki ang bulto ng nagrali. Ang daming magsasakang nangunguna sa rali, galing sa iba’t ibang lugar ng Luzon. Karamihan, nakatsinelas lang. Umabot ang rali hanggang sa sandaan ng Claro M. Recto at J.P. Rizal. Ito ang paanan ng tulay ng Mendiola, at ang maiikling kalsada ng Mendiola.

Nasa harap kami ng U.E., at ito na nga ang kahiya-hiyang unibersidad na ang harapan ay ginawang sine at mall. Walang dangal na ang pangunahing harap ng unibersidad na kilala sa disenyong art deco ay biglang naging mall. May Jollibee sa bukana rin ng kampus.

Bigla na lang may putukan sa harapan. Ang kalakhan ng nasa rali ay nagsipagdapaan sa kalsada. Nagtaka ako, nakisigaw ng “Makibaka, huwag matakot.” At ilang mabilis na sandali pa ay nagkakandakumahog ang mga tao sa pagtakbo paatras. Naririnig kong nagpapatuloy ang putukan. Sunod-sunod, parang armalite. Malakas at nakakapangilabot na ang amoy ng kumakalat na tear gas. Ang daming ginamit ng militar para umamoy hanggang sa tinatakbuhan naming sa Recto. Tumungo kami sa gilid ng kalsada sa aming pagtakbo. Sa Recto kasi, maliban sa unang palapag, ang ibang palapag ay nakalabas sa sidewalk. Inisip kong mas ligtas ito kaysa tumakbo sa mismong kalsada.

Kumaliwa kami ng karipas sa Morayta tapos ay sa isang institute sa kabila ng Quezon Boulevard. Doon nagtipon ang mga dinisperse sa rali. Nagkaroon ng komand na tumungo sa Liwasang Bonifacio. Hindi pa malinaw na marami na palang namatay at nangasugatan sa paanan ng Mendiola.

Larawan sa paggunita sa ika-33 na anibersaryo ng Mendiola Massacre kahapon, Enero 22.

Sa Liwasang Bonifacio, nagsimula rin ang programa. Kabado ang marami pero nagpatuloy pa rin ang nagsasalita sa ibabaw ng jeep. Biglang may pulutong ng militar na sumunod sa Mendiola. Patuloy pa rin ang pagbatikos sa dispersal ng nagsasalita. Nagsimula muli ang putukan. Hanggang dito ba naman ay sistematikong dini-disperse ang rali. Tumakbo kami sa likod ng Post Office, umabot sa likod ng National Press Club.

Mangilan-ngilan na lang kami at natagpuan namin ang aming sarili na nasa ibabaw ng nakadaong na barge sa Pasig River. Mahapdi na ang mga mata namin dahil sa dami ng tear gas na pinasabog para matiyak ang pangalawang dispersal. May nakaisip na sumalok ng tubig sa ilog at gamitin ito para basain ang panyo at ipantapal sa mata. Naisip kong hindi nga kami mamamatay sa putok ng baril, mamamatay naman kami sa tetano dahil sa dumi ng tubig. Pero ito o lalo pang humapdi ang mga mata.

Sumakay akong papunta ng Faura at doon ay sumakay ng jeep pauwi sa Mandaluyong. May komand na huwag matulog sa sariling bahay, bilang pag-iingat sa hindi natatanyang pangyayari. Nakitulog ako sa kaibigan sa Makati. Tinatawid ng bangka ang bahaging ito ng Pasig River para makarating sa bahay ng kaibigan ko.

Mainit ang sabaw ng nilagang buto-buto. At totoo namang sabaw na lang ang naging ulam ko dahil biglaan ang aking pagdating. Ikinuwento ko ang pangyayari sa kaibigan kong manunulat at siya man ay may balita batay sa nasagap niya sa radyo at telebisyon. Nakinig din kami ng radyo bago ako natulog sa sala.

Dalawang beses pang mauulit ang mahabang araw na may kinalaman sa Mendiola. Una ay ang libing ni Rolando Olalia mga anim na buwan pa lamang matapos ng matagumpay na People Power. Mula sa U.P. Chapel at bago ilibing sa sementeryo sa Mandaluyong, idinaan ang bangkay ni Olalia at ng kasamang pinaslang nito sa Mendiola. Ikalawa ay ilang buwan lamang matapos ng tinawag na Mendiola Massacre, inilibing naman ang pinaslang na lider estudyante na si Lean Alejandro. Mula U.P. Chapel, nagmartsa ang daan-daang libo sa Mendiola bago ihatid sa Malabon.

Ang Mendiola ay dambana ng kontemporaryong pakikibaka ng mamamayan. Dito sa kanyang paanan, namumulat ang daan-daang libong nakikibahagi sa kolektibong karanasan sa kilusang pakikibaka. Dito sila inaalay, namumulat, idinadaan bago ilibing, nagiging martir at anak ng bayan. Dito sinisingil ang tampok na simbolo ng estado. Ang maikling daan ng Mendiola—sa pagitan ng magkabilang dulo ng Malakanyang at sambayanan—ay ang saksi sa digmaang-estado. #