Persistent rural poverty, a seething ‘social volcano’
“We are commemorating Mendiola Massacre this year at a period when farmers and fisherfolks are reeling from the damaging effects of the Taal eruption. Mendiola Massacre will forever remain as a bloody emblem of the Philippine government’s failure to implement genuine agrarian reform, the perpetuation of the political killing of farmers and land reform advocates, and the persistence of the decades-old problem of feudal exploitation and poverty of Filipinos,” according to KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis Partylist president Rafael Mariano.
“Each year, every 22nd day of January, we march to Mendiola near Malacanang Palace to demand genuine land reform, free land distribution and social justice but our calls fall on deaf ears. The Duterte administration even made it worse for farmers by espousing anti-farmer policies such as the Rice Liberalization Law, Executive Order No. 70, Memorandum Order No. 32, Charter Change among others,” Mariano added.
“Today, we remember the 13 martyrs of Mendiola — Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez and Roberto Yumul. No one was arrested, convicted and punished for their deaths. Ang isinigaw at ipinaglaban ng mga magsasakang nagmartsa pa-Mendiola noong 1987 ang siya pa ring malakas na panawagan ng mga magsasaka hanggang ngayon,” says KMP leader Danilo Ramos, a survivor of Mendiola Massacre.
KMP described the persistence and worsening of rural poverty as a seething social volcano about to erupt. “The anti-farmer policies of the Duterte regime, such as the Rice Liberalization Law, Memo Order 32, Charter Change and others has been stoking centuries-old problems of landlessness, injustice, and militarization faced by the Filipino rural poor,” Ramos said. He warns that if this continues, a nation-wide eruption of social discontent and unrest is imminent.
“What must be done is to address the roots of rural poverty and injustice, to implement a genuine agrarian reform program with free land distribution at its core, to end the militarization of rural communities, and to resume peace negotiations. Unless the legitimate demands of millions and millions of Filipinos for land, justice, and peace are met, we will forever be on alert for the eruption of this giant social volcano,” the KMP leader explains.
“Farmers and the rural poor face catastrophic events on a daily basis and their status have not changed for the better, they are still among the most vulnerable and poverty-stricken. Farmers are always among the first to bear the brunt of disasters — be it man-made or natural,” the KMP leader said as he also lambasted the Duterte administration’s criminal neglect on the handling of the effects of the Taal eruption. “The social volcano brewing in the countryside is constantly active and ready to erupt anytime. Farmers are long fed-up with Duterte and semifeudalism,” Mariano added.
Demand for land, justice, and peace more imperative now
“We are demanding free land distribution, justice for hundreds of farmer-victims of extrajudicial killings, the end of militarization in rural communities, and the resolution of the armed conflict and unrest in the countryside. Our calls for land, justice, and peace have become more imperative today, 33 years after the Mendiola Massacre,” Ramos said.
“Bugbog na sa pahirap ang mga magsasaka. Mas malulugmok pa ang lokal na agrikultura at mga magsasaka at mangingisda dahil sa pagsabog ng Taal at patuloy na banta ng iba pang mga sakuna” the KMP leader added.
In a peace forum in Manila, land reform advocates discussed the need for a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) that will lay down the principles and framework for pro-people policies that will address socio-economic problems such as unemployment, labor contractualization, hunger, environment degradation, homelessness, among others. In a picket-protest in Mendiola after, farmers light candles and torches to demand social justice for Filipino farmers. #
(Featured image from Bulatlat)