Farmers slam Congress’ failure to address landlessness, return coco levy funds

ON THE eve of the 26th year of the infamous Mendiola Massacre today, the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) picketed in front of the House of Representatives declaring Congress’ failure to enact two pro-farmer bills.

“Today, we declare that Congress not only missed the opportunity but totally failed to address the worsening landlessness in the countryside and has no intention of returning the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers,” said KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores.

Flores accused House leaders of deliberately sitting on two bills, the House 374 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and House Bill 3443 or the proposed Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act that would supposedly “ensure small coconut farmers’ control over the funds and not by corrupt bureaucrats of the Aquino government.”

“After three public hearings on the GARB, the last of it was on December 3, 2011, the committee on agrarian reform deliberately sat on it for more than a year now,” he said.

On the other hand, Flores said, “HB 3443 gathered dust in the committee on agriculture.”

“This shows that Congress is like a ‘katiwala’ of the Haciendero president that ensures that his tenants would remain landless and at the mercy of the landlord,” the peasant leader said.

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 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.”

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

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