“Twenty nine years ago, genuine land reform was the demand of Filipino farmers. Today, nine out of ten farmers do not own the land they till.” – KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – On the same day for the past 29 years, Teresita Arjona goes to the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge. This morning, she held near her chest a black-and-white photograph of her husband Danilo, one of the 13 martyrs of the Mendiola Massacre.
Arjona, now 57, said her siblings advised her to break the painful routine of travelling from their hometown in Liliw, Laguna to Manila. She was not feeling well. Even her children asked her not to go,
fearing that they would also lose their mother to a violent dispersal.
Arjona could not be stopped. When called to speak in front of hundreds of protesters, she asked the public to continue demanding justice for the victims of the Mendiola Massacre.
Arjona’s eldest was only 12 and her youngest was five when state security forces opened fire at the striking farmers on Jan. 22, 1987 and left Danilo and 12 others dead. She raised their five children on her own by working on the farm and taking odd jobs. Now that she has 16 grandchildren, Arjona still longs for justice.
In 1993, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision to junk the class suit filed by the families of the victims of the Mendiola Massacre. The high court cited government’s immunity from suit.
Bloody, bogus agrarian reform
Joining Arjona were hundreds of farmers from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, and supporters from other sectors.
Rafael Mariano, chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said 29 years ago, genuine land reform was the demand of Filipino farmers. Today, Mariano said nine out of ten farmers do not own the land they till.
Mariano said that the government’s agrarian reform failed to break up the monopoly of land by a few elite. “Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Dolores, the 3,100-hectare Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, Hacienda Roxas, Hacienda Looc, Hacienda Yulo, the haciendas in Negros, in Bicol, in Mindanao still remain,” the peasant leader said.
Mariano added that farmers continue to be killed due to land disputes. Under the Aquino administration, there have been 160 farmers who were victims of extrajudicial killings.
End the ‘haciendero’ road
Anakpawis Partylist called on Filipinos not to vote for Liberal Party presidential bet Mar Roxas.
Anakpawis Representative Fernando Hicap said Roxas would ensure Aquino’s immunity from liability for “his crimes against the peasant masses and the people.”
“The Cojuangco family thrives in killing helpless farmers, in Mendiola and in their own backyard in 2004,” Hicap said, referring to the Mendiola Massacre and the Nov. 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre where seven farm workers were killed.
As for Roxas, Anakpawis said that Mar’s grandfather, former president Manuel Roxas, suppressed the Hukbalahap that was then pushing for agrarian reform.
Anakpawis said Mar’s Araneta clan is displacing farmers from 1,645-hectares land in barangays Mascap and San Rafael in Rodriguez town, Rizal. The group said the Araneta clan is also evicting farmers from more than 300-hectares of land in barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan.