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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)

Survivors reenact Luisita massacre on 12th anniversary

Survivors reenact the Hacienda Luisita massacre at the culmination of the three-day Cultural Caravan for Land, Justice in Peace commemorating the 12th anniversary of the carnage last November 15.

They also recounted the violent dispersal that killed seven strikers and injured scores of others.

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Peasants demand justice for 4 massacred inside military camp

PEASANT groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and human rights organization Karapatan condemned the killing of four peasants inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija last September 3.

According to KMP, the farmers were taking part in a land cultivation activity inside the reservation Saturday morning when a helicopter landed and delivered rifles near their area.

That same afternoon, goons connected to a certain Col. Rigor began firing at the farmers. Read more

Land grabbing endangers PH agri productivity–experts

FOOD security activists challenged the Rodrigo Duterte government to end land grabbing activities against farmers and indigenous peoples in a conference last August 1 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

The Philippine Network of Security Food Programmes, Inc. (PNSFP) presented cases of land grabbing throughout the country, as well as their campaigns and mass actions.

Agricultural land in the Philippines decreased by 2.785 million hectares from 5.4 million from 2002 to 2012 due to land grabbing and the subsequent conversion of agricultural lands for other uses, such as mining and Special Economic Zones,  PNSFP advocacy officer Sharlene Lopez said.

She added that the Philippines’ agricultural productivity, rural communities and environment are increasingly at risk if land grabbing continues.

According to PNFSP studies, many land grabbing victims were deceived by the promise of fortune into planting cash crops like rubber or oil palm.

Others were forcibly displaced by militarization or “projects” by either the local government or big businesses.

Many also end up having no choice but to work at cash crop plantations for less than the minimum wage.

A panel of government reactors from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the National Anti-Poverty Commission transition team, the Office of the Secretary of Agrarian Reform, the House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Food Security and HOR Committee on Agrarian Reform said their respective departments would try their best to return the farmlands and ancestral domains to the people.

Despite their assurances, however, Niklas Reese of the Philippine Bureau-Germany encouraged the participants to continue their advocacy against land grabbing.

“We have to be aware that the change of administration doesn’t change the nature of capitalism. We have to be vigilant; we have to be aware,” he said.

Reese added that the government should also to prosecute land grabbers.

“The role of social movements like this one is not just for demanding change, but accountability from the government as well,” Resse said. # (By Abril Layad B. Ayroso)

 

Samak: Ang buhay ng nakikisaka

SA isang bansang ang karamihan ay maralitang magbubukid, marami ang palipat-lipat ng sakahan upang makisaka. Wala silang sariling lupa. Ang kanilang pangunahing puhunan ay ang kanilang lakas-paggawa, nagbabakasakali ng magandang ani. Tumatanggap lamang sila ng 10 hanggang 15 porsyentong bahagi ng ani. Sa maraming pagkakataong wala silang ani dahil sa kalamidad, patuloy pa rin silang nagbubungkal at umaasa.

Alamin ang buhay ng mga Samak, ang mga nakikisakang magbubukid. (Maigsing bidyo-dokumentaryo ni Amel Sabangan)

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CONTRIBUTED VIDEO: Nora Aunor joins solidarity action for Kidapawan victims

Philippine movie superstar Nora Aunor joins a solidarity action in Manila for the victims of the violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato last April 1.