34 years after the Mendiola massacre, farmers still being killed for fighting for land

Amihan Chairperson Zenaida Soriano recalls the Mendiola massacre which claimed the lives of 13 farmers. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

By REIN TARINAY
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Thirty four years ago, farmer Zenaida Soriano travelled from Pakil, Laguna to join a protest action in Manila to demand land reform.

Soriano recalled how she and fellow farmers were so hopeful with the promise of change and democracy by then newly-installed President Corazon Aquino. She did not expect what happened next.

“When we arrived here [in Mendiola], there were so many [elements of] Army, PSG [Presidential Security Group], PC [Philippine Constabulary]. As soon as we crossed the bridge, bullets and tear gas [canisters] were flown our way,” Soriano told Bulatlat in an interview.

“We entered the pawnshop because they were chasing us with their guns,” Soriano recalled.

After the gunshots, 13 farmers lay dead. Soriano said they marched to Sto. Domingo Church then to Mount Carmel where the 13 bodies were taken.

The event on January 22, 1987 changed Soriano’s life forever.

Now 68 years old, Soriano joined fellow farmers in demanding genuine land reform and a stop to state violence.

“Our situation worsened. In the guise of economic development, we, farmers, are being driven away from our land. We continue to suffer from poverty and hunger,” Soriano said in Filipino.

“Worse, farmers who only assert our right to land are still being killed,” she said.

Duterte, ‘Massacre King’

Peasant groups documented 22 massacres, killing over a hundred farmers and indigenous peoples, under the Duterte administration. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) documented 22 massacres under the Duterte administration. Most of the 107 victims were peasants and indigenous peoples defending their right to the land.

The perpetrators, according to KMP, are state forces, private security, and goons of landgrabbers.

Danilo Ramos, KMP chairperson, said in a statement, “Duterte can easily surpass the gruesome record of previous administrations in terms of peasant killings and massacres. Farmers, regard him as the Massacre King — a tyrant that deserves to be ousted from power.”

KMP said most of the massacres happened in Negros and Bicol where Memorandum Order No. 32 is enforced, and in Mindanao where Martial Law situation persists.

Related story: De facto martial law terrorizes civilians in Negros, Bicol, Eastern Visayas

The latest is the massacre of nine Tumandok farmers in Tapaz, Capiz who were killed incombined police and military operations.

Related story: ‘I saw them shoot my husband’ – wife of slain Tumandok leader

KMP added that farmers and indigenous people are also the first victims of the Anti-Terrorism Law, as peasant organizations are tagged as communist fronts by state security forces.

Related story: Then and now, indigenous peoples fighting for ancestral lands charged with terrorism

As for Soriano, who has weathered many storms as a peasant leader, the fight for genuine land reform continues. ()

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