MANILA — Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) joined peasant organizations today in remembering the brutal Mendiola massacre. It underscored that economic growth will only be inclusive if genuine agrarian reform is implemented in the country.
On January 22, 1987, thousands of farmers and supporters trooped to Mendiola bridge in Manila to press the late President Cory Aquino to fulfill her vow of implementing genuine agrarian reform. But the protest was met with violence by government forces, killing 13 farmers and injuring numerous others.
“It has been 26 long years since that gruesome incident and still there was no justice for the 13 martyrs of Mendiola massacre and for the millions of Filipino farmers who are still landless, poor and exploited. Instead of genuine agrarian reform, we have seen the systematic subjugation of the farmers’ age-old aspiration to own the land they till. The current Aquino administration is even peddling the deception of a growing economy that’s supposedly inclusive when in reality, a great majority of our people, most of whom are from peasant families, are still mired in abject poverty,” Renato Reyes, Bayan’s secretary-general, said at the protest.
The group added that the massacre of Filipino farmers struggling for agrarian reform continues with impunity, both literally such as in the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre and symbolically such as through regressive policies “like the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and its extended version – the CARP with Extension and Reforms (CARPER).”
Bayan pointed out that the government even fails to achieve its own token targets under CARPER. Based on a study by think tank Ibon Foundation, President Benigno Aquino III is the worst performing in terms of land distribution among all post-Marcos Presidents with an average of just 14,942 hectares ‘distributed’ per month. Also, 66-percent of lands distributed under Aquino are government lands and not those controlled by powerful landlords. At its current rate, CARPER is already five years behind its scheduled completion.
Bayan noted that amid the high growth in gross domestic product (GDP), joblessness, poverty and hunger are all worsening. Citing surveys by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), the group said the number of jobless Filipinos increased by 2.7 million between 2010 and 2012; the number of poor families increased by 1.5 million while those experiencing hunger grew by 0.5 million families.
“The only explanation for these deteriorating social indicators is government’s failure to implement a program for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform,” Reyes of Bayan said.