“Ang pagsasaka ay marangal na gawain, hindi po ito terorismo. Hindi po kami terorista.”
By ALYSSA MAE A. CLARIN
MANILA — Thirty-two years after the massacre of farmers demanding genuine agrarian reform under the Corazon Aquino administration, relatives of the martyred farmers are still seeking justice and meaningful change.
On January 22, 1987, some 20,000 farmers and members of various progressive groups marched to Mendiola Bridge (now Chino Roces Bridge) calling on then President Aquino to implement genuine agrarian reform.
Fresh from the euphoria of the February 1986 people’s uprising against the Marcos dictatorship, many expected a peaceful demonstration. However, soldiers fired at the marching farmers. Thirteen died as a result and many more were injured.
Exactly 32 years later, farmers from Bulacan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales and Pangasinan, Laguna and Batangas, as well as some parts of Mindanao, marched again to Mendiola honoring the 13 martyrs, still calling for social justice, land reform and an end to fascism.
Continuing killing of farmers
Danilo Ramos, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and a survivor of the Mendiola Massacre, read the names of the fallen farmers and said, “Tatlumpu’t-dalawang taon ang lumipas, walang lupa at hustisya.” (Thirty two years after, still no land and justice.)
Almost 170 farmers, fisherfolk and agricultural workers have been killed under the Duterte administration, not including the 20,000 victims of the government’s anti-drugs campaign, the KMP said.
Farmers everywhere in the Philippines are being jailed and massacred due to false accusations of terrorism.
“Ang pagsasaka ay marangal na gawain, hindi po ito terorismo. Hindi po kami terorista,” said Ramos. (Farming is an honorable job, it is not terrorism. We are not terrorists.)
On October 20 last year in Sagay, Negros Occidental, nine sugar farmers including four women and two minors were reportedly massacred by the Armed Forces of the Philippines after tagging the victims as ‘terrorists.’
The military and police linked the Sagay massacre to the “Red October” plot supposedly hatched by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.
The same situation was evident in February 1987 or two weeks after the Mendiola massacre. In Nueva Ecija, 17 farmers and their families were reportedly massacred by government troops after they were accused as members of the New People’s Army. Twenty-four soldiers of the 24th Infantry Battalion were accused in what became known as the Lupao Massacre. They were tried in court but they were all acquitted.
32 years on, still no sign of social justice
Since the first Aquino Administration, relatives of the 13 farmers and survivors of the Mendiola Massacre have called for justice.
As of this writing, none of the suspects were put behind bars.
Another massacre survivor, KMP Chair Emeritus and Anakpawis President Rafael Mariano, said that various peasant groups were encamped at that time at the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (now Department of Agrarian Reform) for a week, expecting a peaceful dialogue.
Getting no response from the Agrarian Minister, the farmers’ groups marched toward Mendiola to seek an audience with President Aquino.
Not one government official greeted the farmers when they arrived at Mendiola. Instead, rows of armed soldiers awaited them.
“Ibig sabihin, malinaw, wala sa kanila noon ang polisiya ng diyalogo at negosasyon,” (What it means is that clearly they did not have any policy for dialogue and negotiation) Mariano said.
He described how the situation became chaotic when the military started firing.
“Makikita niyo po sa video, nagkalat po ang mga tsinelas at sapatos diyan,” then he added how leaders of the KMP retreated, carried the wounded away from the soldiers and took them to the hospital. The others scrambled away from the gunfire. (You’ll see it in the video, slippers and shoes were scattered everywhere.)
Aside from demanding genuine agrarian reform and justice for the victims of Mendiola Massacre , peasant groups also called for an end to the killings of peasants.
According to KMP, under the almost three-year rule now of President Duterte, there are 14 documented massacres. (Bulatlat.com)