Peasant Countdown to SC decision on Luisita marks 24th year of Mendiola Massacre
Survivors and relatives of 1987 Mendiola Massacre joined farm workers of Hacienda Luisita in launching a people’s countdown to the soon-to-be announced decision of the Supreme Court on the controversial Hacienda Luisita case.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) leaders Willy Marbella and Antonio Flores, Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin, Hacienda Luisita farm worker-leader Rodel Mesa of Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Tess Arjona, wife of Mendiola Massacre victim Danilo Arjona made the announcement during a rally outside the Supreme Court urging Chief Justice Corona and 14 other members of the high tribunal to immediately resolve the long-running agrarian dispute in favor of 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries.
“In the name of the 13 peasant martyrs of Mendiola and for the sake of national interest and social justice, we ask Chief Justice Corona and the 14 other justices of the Supreme Court to resolve the case at the earliest possible time and that decision should put an end to more than half-a-century era of feudal reign and exploitation inside the 6,453 hectare sugar estate immorally and illegally controlled by the feudal Cojuangco-Aquino aristocracy ,” they said during the launching of Peasant Countdown to Hacienda Luisita.
The countdown was launched a day after SC Justice Corona announced on Thursday that the high court would soon issue a ruling on the issues involving the sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Speaking before members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) a group of foreign journalists covering the domestic events, Chief Justice Corona said the announcement of the decision would soon come out but did not elaborate.
However, Corona made a swipe against what he called a campaign against SC over the latter’s recent decisions which were contrary against the Aquino administration, the latest of which was the high court ruling against the Truth Commission formed by Malacanang to investigate crimes of corruption committed during the former administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The launching of Peasant Countdown to SC Decision on Hacienda Luisita was presided by a 30-vehicle farmers’ caravan from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Supreme Court building in Padre Faura, Manila. KMP and UMA led the submission of a letter of appeal to Corona urging the chief justice and the 14 other justices to immediately resolve the case pending before the high tribunal.
Another letter of appeal was sent to Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima, asking her to reopen the Mendiola Massacre case and pursue accountability of officials and individuals implicated in the mass murder of farmers on January 22, 1987.
Cory promised Luisita.
As far as my recollections are concerned the late President Corazon Aquino promised she would give Hacienda Luisita to farm workers six months before the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre.”
This was how Davao-based farmer leader Flores recalled what happened on June 1986, four-months after the successful People Power I revolution that led to the downfall of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
“If my memory serves me right, Mrs. Aquino even praised and thanked KMP leaders for pushing genuine land reform as a centerpiece program for social justice,” said Flores, who was in his early 30s when the massacred took place.
According to the Flores he was with other 12 leaders of KMP who went to Malacanang nearly 25 years ago who submitted the KMP drafted genuine land reform to Mrs. Aquino. Flores said former Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo, now a senator was also present during the meeting when the former President said she would make Hacienda Luisita a model for land reform.
“Mrs. Aquino reneged her promise and instead peppered the farmers with bullets. By December of 1986, farmer leaders had already sensed Mrs. Aquino will break her promise to farmers because members of the Constitutional Convention who were tasked to draft the 1987 charter were either representatives of big landlords or big landlords themselves. So we decided to stage a week-long protest and camp-out in Metro Manila on January 15-22 to denounce Mrs. Aquino’s grand betrayal of farmers,” Flores reminisced.
From January 15-21, 1987, about 15,000 farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog provinces staged a week-long camp-out by the gate of Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MAR), now the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The KMP claimed then Minister Heherson Alvarez had been evading them since they staged the protest outside the agrarian reform office.
On January 22, 1987, KMP led a long march from MAR to Mendiola and the rest was history. Thirteen farmers where instantly killed and more than 100 others were wounded when state security forces led by police and Philippine Marines open fired to 25,000 demonstrators in what is now known as Mendiola Massacre.
The KMP will also highlight in today’s protest action its strong opposition to Republic Act 9700 or the CARP extension with reforms (CARPer law) and Oplan Bayanihan, a new counter-insurgency guide which replaced Oplan Bantay Laya and which the peasant group dismissed as designed and patterned after the US Counter Insurgency Guide of 2009 (US Coin Guide).
The KMP it will also raise the issue of Hacienda Luisita and other big cases of agrarian disputes before the scheduled peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). #