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City councilor, lawyer, activists included in Negros town police’s poster of Reds

BACOLOD CITY — A councilor of the northern Negros Occidental city of Escalante, a lawyer who has longed worked with peasant and human rights groups, and a number of current and former leaders of activist groups were among more than 60 supposed communist rebels whose faces were printed on a police poster.

The National Federation of Sugar Workers issued an alert with a copy of the poster it said was being pinned up by the police force of the central Negros town of Moises Padilla.

The alert was released Monday, the same day human rights groups reported the arrest in Tarlac of Australian nun Patricia Fox, NDS, a volunteer with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, by Immigration officers.

At the top of the poster is the message, “CNN PERSONALITIES, if seen in the area, please text 09099191720.”

CNN is the acronym used by state security forces to refer to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

PNP poster accusing well-known personalities in Negros of being underground revolutionaries. (NFSW photo)

Among the legal personalities whose faces are on the poster are Karapatan-Negros secretary general Clarizza Singson, Zara Alvarez of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, UMA secretary general John Lozande,NFSW secretary general Christian Tuayon, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-Negros secretary general Benjamin Ramos, Escalante Councilor Bernardino Patigas, Julius Dagatan, Ronald Evidente, Ma Rina Amacio, Rogina Quilop, Lary Ocena and Anecita Rojo.

A number of them are also included in the list of alleged rebels that forms part of the Department of Justice’s petition to have the CPP and NPA proscribed as “terrorist organizations.”

On the other hand, Amihan, the National Federation of Peasant Women, said Fox was arrested around 3 p.m. and is currently detained at the Bureau of Immigration’s intelligence bureau.

The group said the nun, who joined a recent international solidarity and fact-finding mission in Mindanao that was reported harassed and hounded by state forces, could be deported.

Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS, in detention at the Bureau of Immigration. (Photo by Atty Ma Sol Taule)

Fox’ arrest came a day after Giacomo Filibeck, deputy secretary-general of the Party of European Socialists, was barred from entering the country in Cebu, where he was scheduled to attend the congress of Akbayan.

Filibeck, who visited the country last year as a member of a human rights fact-finding mission that criticized the government’s bloody war on drugs, was informed he was on a blacklist order and deported.

Stand with Samar | Farmers take gov’t to task for not addressing their plight

By RUTH LUMIBAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The Philippines is an agricultural country but, ironically, farmers complain of government neglect.

Though Eastern Visayas is often hit by typhoons and natural calamities, aid hardly reaches the poorest of the poor: the farmers from far-flung areas. But aside from natural calamities, another disaster plagues the farmers of Eastern Visayas: the plague of pests.

Read: Stand with Samar | On ‘ricelessness’, hunger, and poverty

According to Maricris, a coconut farmer from Las Navas, Northern Samar, pests like cocolisap have gravely affected the amount of copra produced — even reaching the point that they could no longer harvest anything because the worms have already destroyed both fruits and trees.

Jun Berino, spokesperson of SAGUPA-SB, also narrated how palay farmers have to face pests from the start of planting the seedlings up to the point of harvest. If they have enough funds, then they also have to rent water pumps. Otherwise, they would have to rely on rain for irrigation.

In the caravan of Eastern Visayas farmers for rights and justice, they were given the opportunity to face two agencies that have the mandate to assist farmers: the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Small farmers at a disadvantage

“Maraming problema na hindi natutugunan. May tulong naman na binabahagi ang PCA sa region na hindi naman nakakaabot sa mga magsasaka sa niyugan, lalo na sa mga mahihirap, (Many problems are not being met. The PCA gives assistance to the region but this does not reach the small coconut farmers, especially the poor ones.)” Berino said in an interview.

After farmers relayed problems they encounter back home, PCA Officer-In-Charge Department Manager of the Operations Department Pablo Romero explained their projects. According to Romero, PCA’s Yolanda Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (YRRP) has the following components: coconut planting/replanting, coconut intercropping, coconut fertilization debris management and integrated Rhino-beetle control, and integrated pest management.

Romero also explained that the PCA did not allocate funds for the rehabilitation of coconut plantations after post-Yolanda typhoons because no budget was released.

Later in the dialogue, the farmers discovered that one of the major factors that make it hard for them to receive aid is the requirement of a tax declaration to be presented before any assistance or rehabilitation fund is given to them.

Romero said they take ownership of the land into account to ensure ‘continuity’ of the project.

“Karamihan ng mga magsasaka sa niyugan sa Visayas ay walang sariling lupa. Ang proseso nila ay dapat may titulo o may binabayaran na tax para masama sa mga programa ng PCA. Ngayon, minungkahi namin sa PCA kung ano ang pwede nilang gawin para sa mga magsasaka na walang sariling lupa,” (Most coconut farmers in the Visayas do not have their own land. The process of the PCA necessitates a title or a tax declaration for you to be included in their program. Now, we would like to suggest to the PCA that they should also do something about the farmers who do not have their own land.) Berino commented.

Berino also explained that it is hard for them to register their lands because up until now, the classification of their area remains to be ‘forest or timberland’, meaning that it cannot be up for private ownership. Ironically, the actual use of the land is agricultural because years of cultivation have proven that it is fertile.

Romero, representative of PCA, shares about the projects of the agency. (Photo by Ruth Lumibao/ Bulatlat)

The dialogue with PCA is a telling tale of the state of agrarian reform in the country: not only of how those who till the land remain poor and landless, but also of how the politics of aid in rehabilitation tend to benefit those who are landed.

Legitimate demands and hollow promises

“Positibo na napaabot natin ang problema ng mga magsasaka sa niyog. Ang tanong lang ay kailan sila pupunta para tignan ang mga peste at matulungan ang mga magsasaka, (It is positive that we were able to communicate the problems of the coconut farmers. The question is: When will they go to our village to inspect the pests and help the farmers?)“ the peasant leader added.

In response to the farmers’ suggestion that the PCA find ways to address their problems while taking into account the reality that there is no genuine agrarian reform in the country, Romero remarked that he would have to consult his superiors.

In a dialogue with the Department of Agriculture (DA), the department agreed to coordinate with the Department of National Defense (DND) to raise the farmers’ concern about intense militarization in their home province, which likewise affects their livelihood.

It could be recalled that the farmers were earlier violently dispersed by elements of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) after building make-shift tents in front of the DA office.

Related story: Stand With Samar | QCPD demolishes campout of Visayan farmers (Link: http://bulatlat.com/main/2018/02/27/stand-samar-qcpd-demolishes-campout-visayan-farmers/)

“This is a result of the three-day camp-out. Had it not been for our determination to travel all the way from Eastern Visayas to Metro Manila, the agency will probably not even care about our situation – the alarming pest infestation and the famine looming all over the region”, Berino said in a statement.

In both dialogues, many questions were left unanswered and many concerns were left hanging. What cannot be ignored, however, is the reality that the farmers’ plight is always anchored on one unanswered call: genuine agrarian reform.

For as long as the government and its agencies do not address the problem of landlessness, they would never find a permanent, long-term, and fitting solution to the plight of the farmers. #

LakbayMagsasaka reaches Mendiola; peasants vow to ‘occupy’ more land

Thousands of farmers from all over the country marched to Mendiola today at the culmination of their month-long Lakbay Magsasaka national peasant caravan and vowing to defeat the Rodrigo Duterte government’s “fascism”.

About 5,000 farmers, many of whom earlier joined the Lakbayan ng Visayas ang Lakbay Paraoma in Bicol arrived at the National Capital Region Monday to demand genuine land reform and an end to the killings of peasants.

“Today, the Filipino peasant masses vow to further our struggle for genuine land reform through more vigorous land occupation and collective cultivation. Our campaign to dismantle land monopoly, haciendas and plantations will continue and expand on a nationwide scale,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Antonio Flores said.

The nationwide peasant caravans culminate today in a major mobilization at Mendiola, delivering a strong message to President Duterte against the government’s fascism.

“To the madman in Malacanang, we tell you this: you will never win against the Filipino people. The wars that you launched against us–Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao—will all fail. Your regime will soon be exposed as one that is fragile, unstable and easy to overthrow,” Flores said.

KMP said 91 farmer leaders and members of peasant organizations have been summarily killed under the 15-month old Duterte government.

“The ultimate sacrifice of the 91 farmers and land reform advocates who were killed in the name of their struggle for land will not be in vain. We demand justice for all the victims of peasant political killings and extrajudicial killings,” Flores said.

The KMP said its collective cultivation campaign has already covered of thousands of hectares outside of the government’s land reform program, noting farmers are already tilling Lupang Kapdula, Lupang Ramos, Hacienda Roxas, Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Peralta, Hacienda Larrazabal, Hacienda Manubay, Hacienda Uy, Hacienda Dolores, Hacienda Gancayco, Hacienda Yulo and other medium to big landholdings across the country.

“We enjoin all landless farmers and farm workers to occupy and till abandoned lands and properties. A DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform)-sponsored land reform would never work for us. We must assert our own genuine agrarian reform program,” Flores said.

“We will continue to assert genuine land reform, one hectare at a time. We will persevere in our land cultivation activities to achieve a self-sustaining agricultural production that will lay the foundations for genuine rural development,” he added.

Duterte effigy “Dut-in-Boot” being rolled to Mendiola to be burned by participants of Lakbay Magsasaka. (Photo by Kathy Yamzon)

KMP said organized peasants will defeat Duterte’s tyranny through their collective struggle for genuine land reform and resistance to militarization and state-sponsored political killings.

Farmers and peasant leaders from Central Luzon, Cordillera, Southern Luzon, Central and Eastern Visays, Negros, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Western Mindanao participated in the Lakbayan who will lead in the burning of another Duterte’s effigy called “Duts-In-Boot.”

KMP said similar protest actions are taking place in the cities of Iloilo, Tandag, Butuan, Surigao, Davao, Bacolod, Tuguegarao and Cebu. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)  

On Egai Talusan Fernandez’s ‘Padayon’ and today’s Lakbay Magsasaka culmination

by Walkie Miraña, Concerned Artists of the Philippines

THE mural says it all. The people’s suffering and oppression will give rise to people’s resistance.  It will serve as a fertile ground for the people’s struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

“Padayon” is a Visayan word which means to continue, persist or carry on. For this piece, Padayon meant “onwards with the people’s struggle for land.”  It was Talusan Fernandez’s contribution to the 32nd commemoration of the September 1985 Escalante Massacre that killed 20 farmers and injured dozens others.

The artwork is most relevant three decades after “Escam”. Farmers and agricultural workers continue to suffer from the exploitations that drove them to march that Friday morning that merited them nothing but tyranny and bullets.

“My memories of the incident and my recognition of the bravery of the survivors fueled me in creating this mural,” Talusan Fernandez said.

“This piece shows wave upon wave of protests from an outline of a shouting sacada’s (sugarcane farm worker) face that symbolizes their decades of struggle against their oppression. The barbed wire, which fuses with the planted and harvested sugarcane symbolizes the repression they struggle against,” he explained of his work.

Talusan Fernandez is a social realist artist since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, producing nationalist propaganda materials since 1975 and paintings since 1976.

In his four decades of activism through art, he became one of the founding members of Kaisahan in 1977, Free the Artists Movement, Concerned Artists of the Philippines in 1983, and the Artista ng Bayan (ABAY).

Talusan Fernandez currently chairs the National Commission on Culture and the Arts  Committee on Visual Arts.

To the artist, “Padayon” only arouses more questions rather than answers.

PADAYON by Egai Talusan Fernandez, September 20, 2017, Escalante City, Negros Oriental

“Did their conditions change 32 years after the massacre? Have they been given justice and have they been given the land that rightfully belongs to them?” Talusan Fernandez asked.

Talusan Fernandez’s “Padayon” gains even more significance today as thousands of peasants are set to stage the biggest nationally-coordinated protest action to demand for genuine agrarian reform and to struggle against Rodrigo Duterte’s tyranny. Today is the last day of their nine-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #Lakbay Magsasaka as part of their annual commemoration of peasant month (October).

Like the wave of protests in Talusan Fernandez’s masterpiece, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Unyon ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura shall hold the culminating protest action in Mendiola, Manila with farmers and peasant leaders from Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Central Luzon, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley now getting ready at a protest camp at the Department of Agrarian Reform main office in Quezon City. Simultaneous peasant-led actions will take place in major cities and urban centers: Iloilo, Surigao, Tandag, Butuan, Davao, Bacolod and Cebu. #

Duterte has no one to blame but himself on rating fall, groups say

President Rodrigo Duterte has no one else to blame but himself on his recent Social Weather Station (SWS) approval rating slide, a farmers’ group and a human rights organization said.

Saying the big decrease in Duterte’s trust rating is a reflection of his political isolation from the masses, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) added the latest SWS survey further exposes the President as an enemy of the people.

“There is no genuine land reform [under Duterte]. Land monopoly persists and vast tracts of lands remain in the control of a few landed families. Agricultural lands are being converted, further threatening our food security. Tens of thousands of hectares of lands are devoted to foreign-owned plantations. Estimates peg that more than seven in every 10 farmers nationwide have no land to till,” the KMP said.

Human rights organization Karapatan for its part said the people are starting to see through “Duterte’s lies.”

“The Filipino people see through the government’s lies, fake news, deception and repression, as evidenced by the unrelenting campaigns and struggles for justice of victims of State-sponsored violence, that even recent surveys have to reflect the people’s sentiments,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Though surveys are not the end-all, be-all of political opinion, it runs consistent with swelling protests and clamor for an end to [Duterte’s] repressive and fascist policies,” Karapatan added.

In a survey conducted last September 23 to 27, the SWS said Duterte’s gross satisfaction rating fell by 11 per cent from 78 to 67 percent.

Compared with SWS’s June 2017 survey, gross satisfaction with Pres. Duterte fell by 11 points from 78 per cent, gross undecided rose by four points from 10 per cent, and gross dissatisfaction rose by 7 points from 12 per cent, the SWS report said.

This gives a net satisfaction rating of plus 48 (percentage of satisfied minus the percentage of dissatisfied), SWS added classifying the latest rating as “good” from the previous “very good.”

“Whatever popular support he garnered during the 2016 presidential elections would swiftly fade as more and more sectors become disillusioned with his false promises of change,” the KMP said.

Karapatan said no amount of lies can cover up the growing dissatisfaction with Duterte.

“The mad scramble of Duterte’s sycophants to spread lies in international platforms on the non-existence of extrajudicial killings in the country, the recent launch of a group that is posing as a new paramilitary force in defense of the Duterte regime, and the unrelenting moves to suppress civil liberties and exercise of people’s rights are all desperate attempts by Duterte to project acceptability of its anti-people programs and to quell opposition to his fascist regime,” Karapatan said.

Karapatan added “government officials like Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, and the Philippine National Police are on defensive mode, employing the most laughable excuses, semantics and word plays denying the existence and prevalence of EJKs.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers condemn Mariano’s rejection as DAR secretary

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the rejection of Rafael Mariano as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary and blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the Commission on Appointments (CA) decision Wednesday.

“The marching order to reject Ka Paeng came directly from Malacañang and President Duterte,” KMP in a statement said after the CA decision.

KMP blamed Duterte’s “fealty to landlords and oligarchs” for the CA’s decision, adding the chief executive “chose to throw away whatever reforms Mariano has started in DAR.”

The group said Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was among those who opposed Mariano’s confirmation because her husband Atty. Maneses Carpio is a legal counsel of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

“The Lorenzo family (owners of LFC) and Lapanday strongly contested Mariano’s installation of 153 farmer-beneficiaries of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) to the lands grabbed by Lapanday in Tagum City,” KMP said.

The Lorenzos also acquired the controversial Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the Cojuangco family.

The farmers group also said “militarists” in the Duterte cabinet led by Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año also lobbied for Mariano’s rejection.

“Lorenzana and Año connived with Mayor Duterte-Carpio in leading the governors of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental, through the Davao region’s Regional Development Council (RDC XI) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC XI) in blocking the confirmation of Mariano,” KMP said.

The Davao RDC, the opposition of Lapanday and Hacienda Luisita are among the reasons of the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejection of Mariano, KMP added.

KMP said the oppositors submitted a resolution dated May 11 this year to CA chairperson Sen. Aquilino Pimentel informing him of Mariano’s alleged “involvement” in the attacks by the New People’s Army on Lapanday.

The group said the document was based on fabricated “intelligence reports (that) smacked of a witch hunt that has been a feature of the Duterte government’s dirty and bloody counter-insurgency program.”

“Landlords like the Lorenzos and the Cojuangco-Aquinos have wrestled their way to get back control of DAR to favor and protect their interests,” KMP said.

“Mariano’s rejection is another proof that pro-US and militarist hawks are intent on ensuring that genuine socio-economic reforms – including free land distribution and other pro-farmer reforms at DAR advocated by Mariano – won’t prosper,” KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.

“It is consistent with the Duterte government’s refusal to address the socio-economic demands of farmers, and is part of the AFP’s arsenal perpetuating the people’s suffering,” Flores said.

CA committee on agrarian reform chairperson Senator Vicente Sotto III made the announcement on Mariano’s rejection, saying at least 13 members voted against the secretary.

“After an exhaustive deliberation and impartial scrutiny of the testimonies, endorsements, oppositions, and documents submitted, your committee called for a vote. In accordance with the results, in accordance with the rules, I should say, the weight of the scales ultimately tipped the balance against the confirmation of the appointee,” Sotto said.

As in the case of Mariano’s fellow National Democratic Front of the Philippines nominee to the Duterte Cabinet Judy Taguiwalo, the CA also did not announce the names of the 13 members who voted against the nomination.

Genuine peasant leader

KMP said CA’s rejection of DAR’s first genuine peasant secretary is an injustice to Filipino farmers.

“The decision of the CA to reject Mariano does not represent the demand and clamor of millions of farmers for a pro-farmer DAR,” KMP said.

“Behind Ka Paeng Mariano are two million members of KMP and their families, tens of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries and millions of rural poor and Filipinos aspiring for genuine agrarian reform, food sovereignty and peace,” the group said.

“Ka Paeng Mariano has staunchly stood by his position against the conversion of agricultural lands, the very policy that the elite-dominated Congress of landlords and capitalists wants to pursue and perpetuate,” it added.

KMP said Mariano is pursuing free land distribution, social services for farmers, food security for all Filipinos and significant reforms at DAR.

“There’s so much more to accomplish at DAR but militarists and pro-neoliberal elements in the Duterte regime and President Duterte himself are preventing genuine public servants like Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo to do their tasks,” KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mariano accuses Lapanday of mocking Duterte

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary Rafael Mariano denied he committed graft and corruption when he personally led the installation of 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries last May 18 in Tagum City.

In a press conference, Mariano said all agrarian reform disputes are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DAR and only the Supreme Court may restrain the agency from implementing its decisions.

Instead, Mariano said Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) mocks the Duterte government’s call for change by using the courts to thwart the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

“President Duterte has time and time again warned against the ‘use of courts’ to block the mandate of land reform, which is to distribute land to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Mariano said.

“We are just following the president’s directives,” he added.

Harassment

Mariano said the criminal and administrative complaint filed by LFC counsel Noel Oliver Punzalan “is a move by the LFC to harass officials of the DAR.”

Punzalan filed the graft and corruption charge against Mariano and DAR undersecretary for legal affairs Luis Meinrado Pangulayan before the Office of the Ombudsman for “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, Inc. (MARBAI) on the day the farmers were formally installed in the property last May 18.

Punzalan sought a preventive suspension against Mariano and Pangulayan “due to the seriousness and depravity of the acts they committed.”

Punzalan also alleged that Mariano’s successive Cease and Desist Order (CDO), Writ of Installation and Break Open Order from December last year to this month violated a Writ of Execution by the Regional Trial Court of Davao City.

“Mariano’s CDO disregarded the fact that LFC’s possesion and management of the area is by virtue of a prior and final and executory order issued by the RTC of Davao City,” Punzalan said.

The embattled secretary however countered, saying “Lapanday’s contract is not binding to MARBAI as it was executed with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 which already ceded the disputed portion of the banana plantation to MARBAI farmers.

He said he also served the writ of installation after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered him to proceed with the installation during his visit at the MARBAI farmers’ protest camp in Mendiola.

Pangulayan for his part said the DAR just executed its quasi-judicial powers and gave no undue benefit to MARBAI farmers.

DAR said Republic Act 6657 (the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law) gives DAR the sole authority to determine if a case in Court is an agrarian in nature.

“This is the reason why all Courts are required by Section 50-A of RA 6657, as amended, to automatically refer all such cases to DAR,” it said.

He also denied that the agency committed gross negligence and bad faith in installing the farmers.

“The charges are just selfish corporate interest manifesting itself,” Pangulayan said.

“We will reply to the charges when required by the Office of the Ombudsman,” he added.

Lapanday is liable

Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao for his part said LFC should in fact be grateful to Mariano who gave the agri-business corporation more leeway than it deserved, more so in light of its continuing violence against the farmers.

“DAR could have filed contempt charges against the company for refusing to comply with the agency’s lawful orders,” Casilao said.

The charges against Secretary Mariano and Undersecretary Pangulayan are “weak, baseless and should pave the wave for disbarment complaints against Punzalan for ignorance of the law,” he said.

“We call on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to be impartial, as (another Lapanday counsel) Mans Carpio is her nephew as we also condemn LFC’s continuing harassment of the farmers,” Casilao said.

Casilao said Philippine National Police personnel in Tagum City have noticed 100 LFC guards near the MARBAI property a day after Mariano installed the farmers.

DAR also said that armed LFC security guards have positioned themselves near the MARBAI farmers’ campout with military amphibian vehicles stationed within the 70-meter radius.

The farmer-beneficiaries have expressed alarm over their security with fears of being ejected again from their government-awarded lands.

Progressive murals

Meanwhile, Mariano and the DAR received support from other government officials who attended the agency’s flag-raising ceremony and installation of murals at the DAR Central Office lobby.

Murals on agrarian reform, national industrialization, social justice, self determination and other social issues by progressive artists have been installed along the main stairwell of the main DAR building in Quezon City.

Department of Social Work and Development secretary Judy Taguiwalo as well leaders of progressive groups, farmers and peasant organizations attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.# ( Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Progressive murals at the DAR lobby. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

 

Sec. Rafael Mariano

Justice, land reform still elusive 30 years after Mendiola massacre

ON January 22, 1987, farmers led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) marched to Mendiola to demand genuine agrarian reform from the newly-installed Corazon Aquino administration.

There, they were met by a multitude of police and military. While the farmers held a peaceful program, state forces proceeded to shoot at the protesters, leaving thirteen dead and at least fifty injured.

The massacre also led to the breakdown of the peace talks between the Aquino government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Agricultural workers were only calling for genuine agrarian reform, but the landlords and hacienderos responded with violence,” said Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of Unyon ng Manggagawang Agrikultura (UMA). “Until now, there is no justice for the victims of the massacre.”

Ramos drew parallels between the 1987 Mendiola massacre and today’s farmers who still experience state violence as they continue to demand for their rights. “The situation has not changed greatly. The demand for genuine agrarian reform remains relevant to this day,” Ramos said.

The Mendiola massacre was investigated in succeeding years, but the government findings were inconclusive. Tessie Arjona, widow of a Mendiola massacre victim, now calls on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to reopen the case made against the perpetrators.

“We were only calling for land. Why did they have to use violence against us?” Arjona asked.”Pres. Duterte must put on trial the military and police officers who killed my husband and bring about justice, even after all these years,” she said.

 Little victories

Farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and other nearby areas held a protest Friday in Mendiola to commemorate the 30thanniversary of the massacre.

Rafael Mariano, secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform and who was part of the Mendiola protest in 1987, assured the demonstrators that his agency would continue to assist farmers in their struggle for genuine land reform, in the face of abusive landlords and officials.

Since his appointment in 2016, Mariano has opened the national office of DAR to farmers, convened the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) for the first time in 10 years, and distributed hundreds of hectares of land to peasants. The issue of genuine land reform is also a major agenda in the ongoing peace talks between the Duterte administration and the NDFP.

These are little victories, Mariano said, but reminded that farmers need to continue their vigilance and action in their struggle for real land reform. “The best thing that peasants should still rely on is still their continued organized struggle for genuine agrarian reform,” Mariano said. # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)