Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 19:43:14 +0800
Subject: [asia-apec 1008] Twelve years after Mendiola massacre
X-Sequence: asia-apec 1008
Precedence: bulk

>From KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines)
>22 January 1999

Mendiola massacre widows hit Estrada's bogus land reform

From KMP, 22 January 1999

MANILA (Jan. 22)—HUNDREDS of protesters today retraced the tragic peasant march of twelve years ago from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to the Mendiola Bridge that saw the massacre of thirteen peasants who were among thousands in a rally demanding genuine land reform from the Aquino government.

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP: Peasant Movement of the Philippines) joined Kilusang Enero Beinte Dos (KE22: January 22 Movement), an organization formed by the widows and orphans of the martyred peasants. Together they asked anew that justice be given the Mendiola massacre victims. They also demanded implementation of genuine land reform and the scrapping of new schemes by the Estrada government that worsen landlessness among the peasantry.

Last night, KE22 veterans broke in tears while watching a documentary film of the massacre during a ceremony honoring the martyrs and sponsored by students and church people encamped in front of the DAR national office.

Teresita Arjona, KE22 council member, lamented that twelve years after the incident, justice still eludes their families and that the government still refuses to implement a genuine land distribution program.

KMP chair Rafael Mariano denounced the US-Estrada regime for its deceptive schemes that would intensify land monopoly enjoyed by comprador-landlords. He scored DAR secretary Horacio Morales for issuing Administrative Order No. 9 last December, which would implement on a nationwide scale the corporative agrarian reform model concocted by Danding Cojuanco, a well known crony of the late dictator Marcos, for his Negros sugarlands.

In the immediate term, AO No. 9 virtually excludes 218,000 hectares of commercial farms from the scope of compulsory acquisition and redistribution to landless tenants by offering instead stock shares, contract growing arrangements and leaseholds. It would render into wage slaves the future generations of peasants who will continue to be deprived of their own land.

Farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog likewise joined the January 22 march-rally to protest the rising tide of militarization and human rights violations in the rural areas. According to the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), the US-Estrada regime flagrantly violates international human rights instruments and the recently signed Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The human rights group KARAPATAN documented 70 cases of illegal arrests, torture, imprisonment, strafing, arson and looting committed against the peasants in 1998. Culpability is shared by both the Ramos and Estrada administrations.

KMP chapters in the capitals of Kotabato, Cebu, Davao, Negros, Albay and Leyte conducted their own mass actions to demand genuine land reform and the scrapping of A.O. No. 9.

Meanwhile, led by PESANTE (Philippine Peasant Support Network), about a hundred Filipinos and their friends trooped to the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, California to protest the Estrada government's complicity in abetting illegal land-use conversion in Batangas.

PESANTE said the the Philippine National Bank is supporting the Fil-Estate and Manila South Coast Development Corp. with funds to guarantee purchases by US-based investors who are sweet-talked into buying retirement havens in Hacienda Looc. Two thousand peasant families in Looc are fighting the real estate giants from destroying their farms planted to rice and sugarcane.


Perpetrators: Members of the Philippine National Marines
  Western Police District (WPD) of the Philippine National Police

Date of incident: January 22, 1987

Place of incident: Mendiola Bridge, Manila, Philippines

Number of victims: 13 dead, 62 wounded

tr> Names of dead victims: 1. Danilo Arjona8. Leopoldo Alonzo 2. Adelfa Aribe 9. Dionisio Bautista 3. Roberto Caylao10. Vicente Campomanes 4. Ronilo Dumanico11. Dante Evangelio 5. Angelito Gutierrez12. Rodrigo Grampan 6. Bernabe Laquindanum13. Sonny Boy Perez 7. Roberto Yumul©

Background of the case

During the campaign for the 1986 presidential elections, candidate Corazon Aquino promised to implementat a genuine land reform program.

Nearly a year after Aquino came to power after the Edsa uprising, she initiated peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF), tackling among many other strategic issues the persistent problem of landlessness and social inequalities that trigger social unrest and armed revolution in the countryside.

On January 15, 1987, peasants belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) pitched tents in front of the national office of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City to demand implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

After fruitless talks with secretary Heherson Alvarez, 11,000 peasants, supported by some 10,000 allies from the church, trade unions, students and the middle class, decided to proceed to Malaca F1ang (presidential palace). A phalanx of anti-riot police and Philippine Marines blocked their way.

As KMP leaders negotiated to be allowed to proceed to the palace gates, policemen and soldiers opened fire on the marchers. Thirteen peasants and fishermen were instantly killed, while 62 others were wounded. The fascist troops unleashed a maniacal pursuit of the fleeing rallyists with guns a-blazing down surrounding shopping centers.

The incident drew massive condemnation from various sectors. The NDF denounced the massacre and withdrew from the negotiations. Aquino was forced to create the Citizens' Mendiola Commission to investigate the violent dispersal. The Commission recommended that deceased and wounded victims be amply compensated by the government, and that soldiers and police involved in the crime be prosecuted.

The commission was abolished even before the perpetrators were identified. Meawhile, the Commission on Human Rights offered P10,000 for each of the dead victims. The victims' families rejected the offer. They wanted justice for their dead and wounded kin.

On January 22, 1998, two years after the incident, the victims' relatives filed a lawsuit against the government and several police and military officers for damages amounting to P6.5 million. Named defendants were: National Defense Secretary Gen. Fidel Ramos who later became the Philippine president; AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa; WPD Superintendent B/Gen. Alfredo Lim; Gen. Rodolfo Biazon, chief of the Phil. Marines, who is now a senator; B/Gen. Brigido Paredes, Marines commandant; Col. Edgar dula Torre and Col. Romeo Monfort of the CAPCOM; and WPD deputy superintendent Cesar Nazareno who later became PNP chief.

The government invoked immunity from the suit (the State cannot be sued without its consent), and the case was dismissed by the Manila Regional Trial Court. The case was elevated to the Supreme Court which also dismissed the case.

Today, twelve years after the carnage in Mendiola, the victims' relatives are still demanding justice. Furthermore, the problem of landlessness for which their surviving families have fought for has even intensified in the past ten years.

The agony of the massacre victims' relatives is compounded by the burden of rearing their families all by themselves.

Several months after Danilo Arjona's murder at Mendiola, his widow Teresita was forced to give return to the landlord the half-hectare of rice farm leased to her family. Plowing is too much for her frail health. For some time, she worked as a household help for a Japanese businessman in San Pablo City. Nowadays, after working in the fields, she rushes to the town market where she peddles vegetables in order to make ends meet and try to send her five children to school.

Life is equally hard for Nelia Perez and her children. After the death of her husband, Sonny Boy, a farmer and fisherman, Nelia had to take on farming chores to support her children. Her youngest, Anna Karisma, now in fifth grade, never saw her father. Sonny Boy was not even aware that Nelia was then pregnant with Anna Karisma.

Randy Bautista, 16, of Orion, Bataan, is supposed to be in high school. But he stopped schooling two years ago after finishing fifth grade. Randy's mother was forced to leave him in the care of his grandparents.