“All of us are hopeful that the Duterte administration will reopen the case.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — As expected, 58- year-old Teresita Arjona came to the foot of Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge. For the past 30 years, Arjona has been seeking justice for the death of her husband Danilo and 12 other farmers who were killed when police opened fire at 22,000 farmers on Jan. 22, 1987.
Arjona was the only relative of the 13 martyrs present during the demonstration this afternoon, Jan. 20. She said the other relatives were either ill or too old to travel. She exchanged text messages with them before she left Liliw, Laguna yesterday.
“All of us are hopeful that the Duterte administration will reopen the case,” Arjona told Bulatlat in an interview. “We want justice and land reform.”
The victims’ families and the survivors filed a class suit against the government and certain police and military officers on Jan. 20, 1988. Among the respondents were former President Fidel Ramos, who was, at that time, the defense secretary; former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa; the Western Police District (WPD) Superintendent then Alfredo Lim; Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, then chief of the Philippine Marines; B/Gen. Brigido Paredes, former Marines commandant; Col. Edgar dela Torre and Col. Romeo Monfort; and former Philippine National Police Chief Cesar Nazareno, then WPD deputy superintendent.
The following month, the House Committee on Human Rights recommended the expeditious payment of compensation to the victims.
In May of the same year, however, the Manila regional trial court dismissed the class suit. The petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration but were denied, with the court citing that the State did not file a waiver of immunity from suit.
On March 19, 1993, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, citing government’s immunity from suit.
Antonio Flores, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said the police and military officials involved in the violent dispersal were all promoted.
Moreover, the victims’ families did not receive any compensation.
Joining the protest action, Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao urged President Rodrigo Duterte to recognize and compensate the victims by issuing an executive order or presidential proclamation.
Casilao also called for the enactment of House Bill 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which seeks to distribute land to the tillers for free.
KMP’s Flores lamented that 30 years after the massacre, landlords are still in control of vast tracts of land.
In his speech during the program, Antonio Tuyak, 62, said his family and 159 other agrarian reform beneficiaries have encamped outside the 450 hectares of land in Tagum City, Davao del Norte since December 2016. The land, which was awarded to them in 1987, is now controlled by Lapanday Food Corporation (LFC).
Tuyak said they are only asserting their right to their own land but security guards of the LFC fired at them in separate incidents in December.
Despite a cease and desist order issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Tuyak said the LFC has not left. “The police, and even the local officials of Tagum are controlled by the Lorenzos,” Tuyak told Bulatlat, referring to the owner of LFC.
Include land reform in peace talks
The KMP took the opportunity to express support to the ongoing third round of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Rome, Italy.
Both panels announced they prepared their respective drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms (Caser).
Joseph Canlas, KMP chairperson, said, “…we want a CASER that will address our most basic concerns — land, food and social justice. We want resolutions to the centuries-old problem of farmers and the people,” Canlas said.