Seventeen years ago last week in Mendiola at the approach of the presidential palace, Marines and police opened fire at some 30,000 peasant protesters. After the smoke cleared, 13 of the marchers lay dead. Today, organizers of that tragic rally want the massacre case reopened for justice and a bill filed in Congress for the victims’ indemnification.
By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Rafael Mariano, 47, one of the survivors of Mendiola Massacre on Jan.22, 1987 wants to re-open the case for truth and justice sake.
The chairperson of the militant peasant alliance Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP-Peasant Movement of the Philippines), president and No.2 nominee of Anakpawis (toiling masses) political party last week said contrary to state view that it was a closed book, the death of his 13 farmer-comrades remains a primary concern in the peasant movement in the country.
“It is not a closed book,” Mariano stressed. “The dark memories and gory injustice of Mendiola Massacre are still vivid as they are 17 years ago. There’s no substitute for justice and our party will push for the re-opening of the case come what may.
Mariano, who was 30 at the time of the massacre, recounted that the re-opening of the case was brought to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s attention on her first day of office on Jan. 22, 2001 or two days after People Power II uprising ousted ex-President Joseph Estrada from power and made her president.
Mariano’s KMP was in the frontline of the oust-Estrada campaign.
“But our justice-seeking peasants were treated by Arroyo to a national political playtime. She did nothing to correct this historical injustice to Filipino farmers,” he said.
Anakpawis hopes to win three seats in the May 10 elections under the party list system. Mariano said if his party list succeeds in bringing in their representatives to Congress, one of its priorities is to task Congress to re-open the controversial Mendiola Massacre case.
“If the truth shall set us free, then the truth about the Mendiola Massacre and the culpability of all those involved in the carnage must be exposed to the smallest detail,” he added.
On that day 17 years ago, members of the Philippines Marines and Western Police District (WPD) fired shots at thousands of protesting farm workers and peasants agitating for genuine land reform as promised to them by then President Corazon Aquino. Joined by 30,000 farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions, the Mendiola rally was organized by KMP.
Mariano said Anakpawis strongly considers the proposal of KMP for Congress to enact a law that would compensate the victims of Mendiola Massacre. He said the bill would be parallel to House Bill 4535 sponsored by Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo that sought indemnification of some10,000 human rights victims during Martial Law.
“The state-perpetrated carnage in Mendiola has its own place in history,” Mariano added. “The compensation law seeks to indemnify the victims, expose state violence against the peasantry and above all pursue justice for Filipino farmers.”
Anakpawis said it would push the Mendiola Massacre compensation measure as urgent and it would lobby in Congress for the recognition of the martyrdom and gallantry displayed by peasant activists for the genuine land reform.
Before the peasants could reach Malacañang Palace, the Marines and police shot and killed 13 peasants, wounded 105 and arrested 15 of Mariano’s colleagues in the peasant
movement. “We filed a lawsuit for reparations of P 250,000 per family of each murdered victim and P 50,000 for each person wounded in the massacre but this plea for indemnification was rejected by Mrs. Aquino and her generals,” Mariano recalled.
“Today, the generals responsible for the death of 13 peasant activists remain very much alive in the political scene, some of them are even coddled by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and hold several high positions in the bureaucracy,” he added.
Those who died in Mendiola 17 years ago and honored by peers as martyrs are: 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. The relatives of 13 victims are organized under the Kilusang Enero 22 (KE 22), which was formed on March 22, 1994.
The KMP said the victims’ families and survivors of Mendiola Massacre named former President then Secretary of National Defense Fidel Ramos, former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa, former WPD Supt. B/Gen. Alfredo Lim, then Marine chief now reelectionist Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, B/Gen. Brigido Paredes, Col. Edgar de la Torre and Col. Romero Monfort of the defunct Capcom and former PNP Chief Cesar Nazareno in the P 6.5 million peso law suit.
On May 31,1988 Judge Edilberto Sandoval of Branch 9 of the Manila Regional Trial Court dismissed the lawsuit against the Aquino administration and on Aug. 8 that year, the Supreme court acquitted the government, citing the state’s immunity from suit.
GMA: Massacre Queen
“Even President Arroyo has blood debts to the Filipino peasantry, said Danilo Ramos, KMP’s secretary general. “She is the ultimate Massacre Queen of the Millennium for offering peasants’ lives to the altar of state-sponsored terrorism.”
Ramos, who hails from Bulacan and is himself another survivor of Mendiola Massacre,
said President Arroyo was also guilty of violating the peasants right to land and life of dignity.
“She’s the class enemy of the peasantry and her regime, their perennial tormentor,” Ramos added.
The peasant leader said he is worried about the deployment of over 2,000 military troops in Mindoro Occidental. He said the government is planning to attack peasant communities in the province in pursuit of what government labeled as “enemies of the state.”