Farmers protest set to commemorate Mendiola, Guinyangan massacres

THE Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today announced that farmers from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon are set to launch protest actions to commemorate the Mendiola and Guinyangan massacres that occurred during the 1980’s.

Twenty-six years ago, 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 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 insulted the victims by responding with a bogus CARP,” says KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores adding: “Until now, the vast majority of farmers remain landless. Land monopoly remains highlighted by the Cojuangco-Aquinos control over Hacienda Luisita. Justice remains elusive to the victims of Mendiola Massacre.”

“And far more insulting to the victims of Mendiola massacre is that President Aquino is bent on extending the sham CARP thereby prolonging the pain and deceptions inflicted on the victims,” Flores added.

The peasant leader was referring to Administrative Order No. 34 issued by Malacanang on November 22 last year “Creating an Inter-Agency Committee on Institutional Arrangements and Rural Development” headed by the Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority.

“With the NEDA at the helm of this new body, Philippine agrarian reform is now in tune with Aquino’s Private-Public Partnership scheme and the full-scale liberalization of agriculture,” the KMP leader said.

On the other hand, the Guinyangan massacre happened on February 1, 1981 when an estimated 6,000 coconut farmers in Guinyangan protested the continuance of the collection of the coco levy. The coconut farmers demanded land reform, fair price for copra, livelihood and an end to military abuses. Security forces opened fire on the protesters, leaving two dead and 17 wounded in what is now annually commemorated as the “Guinyangan massacre.”

“It’s been 32 years since Quezon farmers protested against the collection of the coco levy funds and until now, the money that was forcibly collected from us remains at the hands of the President’s uncle,” says KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella referring to San Miguel Corporation chair Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.

Marbella, also national coordinator of the claimants’ movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM), said that on February 1, coconut farmers from Southern Tagalog and Bicol will march for the recovery of the coco levy funds to Mendiola Bridge.

The KMP said farmers from Hacienda Looc in Batangas, Hacienda Yulo in Laguna, Pujalte Estate in Palawan, Hacienda Aranet in Bulacan, and Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac will hold a protest camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform starting tomorrow before marching to Mendiola on Tuesday. It said that parallel peasant-led protest actions in Tacloban City, Davao City, and Bacolod City will be held on January 22.

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