Justice for the victims of the Mendiola Massacre and the struggle for genuine land reform they died for remain a rallying cry for farmers 35 years after the bloody incident, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.
The farmers’ group that led 20,000 farmers in a rally near Malacanang Palace on January 22, 1987 said the 13 victims who died in the bloody dispersal are yet to given justice, as is their group’s call for an end to tyranny and for genuine land reform.
“The peasant movement pays tribute to Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez, and Roberto Yumul who were martyrs of the Mendiola Massacre,” the KMP said.
According to other accounts, 39 were also severely injured as a result of gunshot wounds.
KMP said the incident forced the Corazon Aquino government to pass the controversial Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) to pacify farmers but the measure was still based on the flawed Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Decree 27.
Both Aquino’s CARL and Marcos’ PD27 wanted farmers to pay for the land supposedly awarded to them while landlords were generously compensated for land taken from their control.
The laws also allowed land conversions and the driving away of farmers from agricultural lands they already tilled.
The KMP has earlier repeatedly said that exemptions guaranteed CARL’s failure, including so-called stock distribution options that benefitted the Aquino-controlled Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac Province.
The law had been extended twice that allowed the 5 governments that succeeded Aquino to implement the government’s land reform program.
At least 75 percent of Filipino farmers still do not own land however.
KMP said the current Rodrigo Duterte government has in fact worsened land conversion and destroyed collective farming initiatives, giving way to stronger control by landlords and foreign agro-industrial industries of large portions of the country’s agriculture sector.
“The Duterte regime also favored over-importation of agricultural products such as rice, pork, fish and others” that drive farmers into bankruptcy and onerous debts, the KMP said.
Farmers and human rights groups also reported that 347 farmers, mostly members of peasant organizations and land rights activists, have been killed under the Duterte regime.
Genuine justice for the victims of the Mendiola Massacre will only be achieved with the implementation of a genuine land reform and the development of Filipino agriculture, the KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)