Farmers march to Mendiola, US embassy to assert land and sovereignty

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ON the 26th year of the infamous Mendiola Massacre today, more than 2,000 farmers led by the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) marched to Mendiola Bridge and the United States embassy in Manila to denounce what it described as “worsening landlessness and escalating US intervention in the country.”

KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said that 26 years after the carnage in Mendiola “justice remains elusive to the victims of Mendiola Massacre.”

On January 22, 1987, tens of thousands of farmers marched to Malacanang to demand genuine land reform under the newly installed administration of the late President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino.

But upon reaching the foot of Mendiola Bridge, anti-riot personnel from the Western Police District, the Integrated National Police, and the Philippine Marines had opened fire on the more than 20,000 farmers and their supporters from the national capital. After the shooting, 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 lay dead. More than 80 others were wounded.

The massacre scuttled the ongoing peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. A year later, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was passed by Congress and signed into law by then President Corazon Aquino.

“The free distribution of lands was our demand 26 years ago and the first Aquino government’s response was a rain of bullets and a bogus land reform called CARP,” says Flores adding: “Until now, the vast majority of farmers are landless and the Cojuangco family still controls Hacienda Luisita.”

“Now, under the administration of another Cojuangco-Aquino we continue to demand for land and the very same answer, violence and deception, CARPER and Oplan Bayanihan, are what we get,” Flores said referring to the extended CARP and Aquino’s counter-insurgency program which according to the human rights group Karapatan resulted to 137 incidents of extra-judicial killings.

“It’s like mother, like son,” he said.

Black eye to Phl sovereignty

The farmers also marched to US embassy in Manila to condemn “President Aquino’s deafening silence” on the running aground of the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, in Tubbataha Reefs, a marine park designated in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The USS Guardian’s devastation of the Tubbataha Reefs is another black eye to Philippine sovereignty,” says Flores adding: “It forms part of the US’ arrogant military basing, deployment of nuclear-carrying warships, jetfighters, and terror drones.”

“And what is utterly shameful is the President’s silence on the US’s barefaced arrogance that smacks of puppetry of the highest order,” Flores said.

“In the face of the US’ escalating intervention,” Flores said, “it is far more urgent and justified for the Filipino people to heighten the demand for the junking of the highly onerous and one-sided Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”

“We call on all patriotic and freedom-loving Filipinos to rise up against the puppet Aquino regime and its imperialist master and assert Philippine national sovereignty,” the peasant leader said.

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