Three days before the 24th year anniversary of infamous Mendiola Massacre, survivors and relatives of the massacre challenged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to give up his family’s “illegal and immoral claim” over the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita and pave way for the re-opening of the case which claimed the lives of 13 farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog and injured more 100 other peasant activists 24 years ago.
In a press conference held at the national headquarters of umbrella alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Quezon City, they said justice will only be served to the peasant martyrs of Mendiola if President Aquino will agree to have distributed the vast the sugar estate to 10,000 farm worker beneficiaries for free and that the President would also order the reinvestigation of the massacre.
“If President Aquino has that sense for justice and justice, he will immediately place Luisita under free land distribution and he will give that sacred vow to punish the perpetrators of that mass murder of peasants 24 years ago,” said Miriam Villanueva, 42 and one of the survivors of the brutal carnage.
Villanueva, the local officer of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chapter and organizer of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) in Cavite province was 18 years old then. She recalled how she and her fellow farmers from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon ran for cover like rats on that day- January 22, 1987 when members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) went on shooting spree and killed 13 farmers instantly and left over a hundred farmers and supporters wounded.
“Nandito pa rin iyong sugat hindi nawawala. Iyong mapait na alaala ng Mendiola Masaker parang nagpapatuloy na bangungot. Hangga’t walang katarungan sa pagkamatay ng 13 magsasaka, mananatili ang sakit at pait ng madugong kahapon,” Villanueva said.
The 42-year old peasant activist likewise questioned the implementation of extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) under Republic Act 9700 or the CARP extension with reforms (CARPer).
“We did not ask for CARP or CARPer. That is very clear to us when we marched from the agrarian reform office to Mendiola. What we were asking then and until now is free distribution of lands to landless tillers. Only narrow minds like that of Mr. Aquino would have difficulty in understanding of what we had collectively asked that time” said Villanueva.
KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores announced that a 30-vehicle caravan from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) national office in Quezon City to Supreme Court will be staged on Friday January 21 to commemorate the 24th year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.
The KMP spokesman said his group and the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) will submit a motion to the Supreme Court urging the high tribunal to immediately resolve the pending case against the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) and lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) imposed against the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) which previously placed the 6,435 hectare sugar estate for distribution to farm worker beneficiaries.
Flores said from SC , the farmers will proceed to the Department of Justice (DoJ) to submit a letter of appeal to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima which would ask the latter to pursue a reinvestigation of the 24-year old Mendiola Massacre.
“For us Mendiola Massacre is a case unclosed and President Aquino is back to square one and he should face this issue fair-and –square,” the KMP leader added.
From Supreme Court, Flores said the farmers will march to Mendiola to demand to the Aquino government the immediate and unconditional distribution of Hacienda Luisita, the junking of CARPer and the scrapping of the new counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan, which KMP dismissed as extremely brutal and a champion of deception. #