Twenty-nine years ago today, farmers demanding genuine land reform under the new Corazon Aquino administration were gunned down by state forces in Mendiola, Manila. Thirteen were killed, but the current Benigno Aquino III government remains deaf to the calls for land and justice.

The thirteen – Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Angelito Gutierrez, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Roberto Caylao, Rodrigo Grampa, Bernabe Lakindanum, Sonny Boy Perez, Roberto Yumul – marched among 20,000 protesters on January 22, 1987 to claim Aquino’s electoral promise of agrarian reform. 

IMG_3644

Tessie Arjona holds up a photo of husband Danilo Arjona, one of the victims of the Mendiola Massacre.

IMG_3860

The call for genuine land reform still echoes in Mendiola, 29 years after the massacre.

IMG_3636

KMP and other progressive groups back the passage of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill for the distribution of lands to farmers.

That nine out of 10 farmers have no land to till is a grave manifestation of the reigning semi-feudal relations in the country. Still, the present Aquino administration continues to exploit state policies such as Oplan Bayanihan, public-private partnerships (PPPs), and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to prevent land distribution.

“In his six years as president, we have seen how Aquino and his cohorts ganged up on poor Filipinos through policies and partnerships that demonstrate wanton disregard of the people’s rights. While the peasants have long been waging its decades-old struggle for land, the government, through EDCA, has freely opened the country for US access – practically surrendering the country’s sovereignty in areas designated as US military facilities,” Nestor Villanueva of KASAMA-TK (Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid-Timog Katagalugan) said in a statement. 

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) dares 2016 presidential frontrunners Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, and Rodrigo Duterte to distribute haciendas and big plantations owned by one percent of the country’s landlords. 

“The distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other vast haciendas remains as a litmus test to presidential wannabes,” KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said. “The failure of these presidential hopefuls to declare and implement the genuine distribution of Hacienda Luisita and other plantations makes them no different from the current haciendero government of Aquino,” he added.