Recently, various labor groups congregated at the historic Mendiola bridge to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the “Mendiola Massacre,” with the hope of getting justice for the families of the slain farmers. It you may recall, on January 22, 1987, police and military personnel, on orders reportedly emanating from Malacañang, violently dispersed a farmers’ march at Mendiola bridge. The incident left 13 protesting farm workers dead while 20 others were injured, some of them critically, when police and military personnel opened fire on the marchers.
After nearly three decades, not even one police or military personnel involved in the shooting has been prosecuted or charged in court. The massacre took place during the early administration of the late President Cory Aquino, mother of current Philippine President Noynoy Aquino.
In the recent rally, instead of getting even a semblance of sympathy from the government, the grieving families of the slain farmers were instead rebuked by Malacanang officials, stating that President Noynoy is not accountable for the deaths of farmers demanding agrarian reforms during the term of his mother.
Many farmers have lost or sacrificed their lives with the hope of achieving their elusive dream of owning the land they have been promised through agrarian reform. But to this day, there is no real genuine land reform in the Philippines. Some farmers are saying that the distribution of land titles by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2013 “is nothing but a hoax.” Under DAR policy, farmers will get a certified true copy of land title. But for them to receive a land title from the Landbank of the Philippines, farmers will have to pay the government amortization for 30 years. Once a farmer is unable to pay that for three consecutive years, the title will be forfeited.
Farmers were one in saying that the scheme by the DAR is not based on real social justice. They claimed if the government is really sincere in implementing a genuine land reform based on social justice, farmers should not be required to pay for the land.
The senseless deaths of farmers at the hands of the police and military in 1987 triggered a nationwide protest that rocked the administration of President Cory. The protesting farmers were marching towards Malacañang palace to demand fulfillment of the promises made regarding land reform during the presidential campaign of then Cory Aquino, as well as the distribution of lands at no cost to farmers. The massacre also forced the communist leaders – Satur Ocampo and Luis Jalandoni – to quit from the negotiating table that could’ve ended the NPA rebellion.
President Cory and her family were one of the largest landlord families in the Philippines. The controversial Hacienda Luisita is owned by the family of President Cory and her son “Noynoy.” For so many years, the powerful Aquino-Cojuangco clan successfully eluded land distribution through their political influence.
When President Cory officially announced her candidacy on December 3, 1985, land reform was one of the bastions of her presidential campaign. She even made promises to farmers that once elected as president, Hacienda Luisita will be given to them. It was said that she was forced to make the promise to entice farm workers all over the country to join her political rallies.
When President Cory delivered her first policy speech on January 16, 1986 in Makati, she said that “we are determined to implement a genuine land reform program to enable farmers to become self reliant and prosperous.” She followed this up in another speech while campaigning in Davao where she stated that “land to the tillers must become a reality instead of a slogan.” President Cory, to the delight of the crowd, even went further by saying “if you will probably ask me: will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? my answer is YES.”
As we probably all know, this is a BIG LIE. Cory never had any intention of giving up her family’s vast track of land. It’s a shame that her political allies are saying that she is the mother of agrarian reform in the country. True, she did land reform vast track of lands owned by rich people that were not her allies. She gave away lands owned by the political nemesis of her late husband, Senator Ninoy Aquino. But not theirs – Hancienda Luisita.
President Cory Aquino, months after being diagnosed with colon cancer, died at the age of 76. It was probably a very painful experience she suffered during her ordeal. I do not like to think that it is a KARMA. However, I do believe in the saying “you reap what you sow.” Does that extend to President Noynoy? That is for you to decide.