Day 2 of Battle of Mendiola: 
Peasants burn 100 faces of Aquino, grade him ‘zero’ for his first 100 days

Members of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK, KMP Southern Tagalog) returned to Mendiola and continued their protest against president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s disregard of land issue within his first 100 days.  The peasants also condemned the violent dispersal against them last night led by the Manila Police District (MPD).  The dispersal resulted the wounding of 5 peasant activists and supporters.

“This is budding authoritarianism, peasants already neglected who have been demanding the Aquino government genuine land reform were violently dispersed just before his 100th day as president.  Aquino should be ashamed of the people he should serve in the first place,” Axel Pinpin said, KASAMA-TK Secretary-General.

The peasant groups are demanding the Aquino government to implement fundamental reforms such as genuine land reform, justice for victims of rights abuses and the prosecution of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  They have submitted their demands on June 30 at Mendiola bridge, immediately after Aquino swore in at the Quirino grandstand.
Upon arrival at Mendiola bridge, peasant leaders and supporters threw rotten tomatoes at a mock-up presidential seal written with “Haciendero Republic” and the hundred faces of Aquino.  Consequently, they burned them as symbol of heightened protest and defiance to Aquino’s “assault” on the peasant movement.

“Zero” for the first 100 days
Peasants also gave Aquino’s first 100 days a grade of zero.  The groups said that his government was not able to push through fundamental reforms such as on the issue of land reform, giving justice to victims of rights abuses and improving services for their benefit.

“Zero for land reform. He continued the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with ‘Reforms’ (CARPer), he kept hacienda lands to the control of big landlords and businesses.  We have been long calling for the Hacienda Luisita to be distributed to the farmworkers but the Cojuangco-Aquinos pushed in deceiving them through the illegal compromise deal and referendum.  Aquino took a “hand-off” attitude when in fact he is the head of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council whose decision to revoke the Stock Distribution Option was the very trigger of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson.

“Aside from Hacienda Luisita, his presidency did nothing end the dislocation of farmers from Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas, Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna, 3,100-hectare lands of Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija, 2,074-hectare lands in Alangalang, Leyte, 13,000-hectare Hacienda Santa Isabel and San Antonio in Ilagan, Isabela and many more.  Aquino is no hope for the Filipino farmers who are longing for Genuine Land Reform,” he added.

“Zero for injustice.  Aquino is saving former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from prosecution as she is accountable for the havoc her counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya caused against the peasant movement.  It caused the lives of 561 peasant activists victimized by Extra-Judicial Killings, where 118 were leaders of KMP such as Eddie Gumanoy of KASAMA-TK.  Enforced Disappearances victimized 129 peasant activists and many were accused of trumped up charges including Felicidad Caparal of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura.  Even Maj. Gen. Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan was not held liable for his reign of terror raised upon the peasantry,” Flores said.

The groups said that Aquino extended Oplan Bantay Laya that resulted the deaths of 9 peasant activists victimized by Extra-Judicial Killings with another 2 peasant victims from Rizal on the process of being verified.  They added he ordered the continuation of massive militarization in Rizal, Quezon, Surigao del Sur, Davao City, Compostela Valley, Northern Samar, Leyte and other parts of the countryside.  Militarization in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur resulted the Enforced Disappearances of 2 peasants.

“Political persecution of peasant activists also proliferated.  Dario Tomada, former peasant leader of SAGUPA-SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) and recently just yesterday October 6, Darwin Liwag, Vice-Chair of KASAMA-TK (KMP Southern Tagalog) and Secretary-General of PUMALAG (KMP Laguna) and two peasant activists were arrested at a military checkpoint in Lumban, Laguna and are now being accused of members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Flores said.

There was no trend of stopping human rights abuses against peasants within the first 100 days of Aquino the groups claimed.

“Zero for absence of services and worsening economy. Peasants are the most marginalized sector in the country.  Poverty and hunger are the usual state of farmers in the countryside.  There was no improvement of the services to the farmers such as in agriculture, education, health and other social services.  Aquino continued Arroyo’s policies and program of liberalizing agriculture, privatizing social services and deregulating the economy,” Pinpin said.

“During the exposé of the existence of rotting surplus rice, Aquino preferred to sell it than to give it to farmers who were devastated by typhoons and extreme drought that we demanded at our protests.  His government has yet to rehabilitate the effects of natural disasters on the livelihood of farmers, he ignored their grievances and lip-served of stopping rice importation,” said Pinpin.

The peasant groups said that Aquino did nothing to reverse the effects of liberalization and deregulation of the economy.  Farmers still suffer from incessant oil price hikes, price hikes of basic commodities, increase in rates of utilities and services and land-use conversion of productive agricultural lands in favor of foreign investments.

“Zero for his first 100 days.  We never experienced any improvement in life under his government.  All we faced are never-ending threats of landgrabbing, dislocations, extra-judicial killings, militarization and other anti-peasant measures.  Aquino is no symbol of hope for the peasantry, worse he is the symbol of feudalism in our country.  We strongly believe that Filipino farmers are always on the verge of being displaced, ripped off of our rights to land, killed, abducted or abused as Aquino promotes the interest of landlords and foreign monopoly,” Flores said.

Heightened peasant protest
“We are on a 48-hour vigil for our demands to be carried out or else his presidency is doomed to face more and intensified peasant protests.  We are transforming our camp-out into a peasant sentry for land reform and justice,” Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson said.

“Aquino should start thinking seriously if he could as his 100th day is paralleled with people’s protests.  Almost everywhere in the country there are protests.  It is a symptom that his government has disappointed the people, majorly the peasants whom he betrayed when he promised ‘change’ during the elections,” Flores said.

“More and more peasants would flood Mendiola as Aquino continues with his anti-peasant and anti-people policies.  He is a hard-core haciendero, insensitive of peasant grievances and a puppet of US imperialism.  He is out to sell the country’s soul to foreign monopoly,” Pinpin said.

The groups said that they would stay at Mendiola until tomorrow to keep guard until activists from different groups and sectors finally express their sentiments on Aquino’s first 100 days in office.

“We are to stand our ground here in Mendiola, as farmers continue to arrive and our numbers grow bigger, Aquino would definitely witness a preview of bigger people’s protest such as ours on October 21 and November 16.  He should make sure his head is well checked-up as more and more peasants across the country are to protest against his governance,” Flores said. #

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