Massacre: 16 Years of Injustice
Jan. 22 for 16 years, Aling Letty has been religiously attending the rally
at the Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge to commemorate the
massacre of 13 peasants. She said
that going to the streets is but one form of struggle adding she
understands why many others take the other option.
Jan. 22 Mendiola Massacre rally shows protesters in various images (clockwise
from top left): mascots representing Macapagal-Arroyo and her military officials
face a crowd of angry peasants; peasant leader Ka Paeng Mariano; Ka Letty in a
fiery speech; and posters of the president being torched to ashes.
Photos by Aubrey Makilan
Massacre happened 16 years ago. But
for Letty Arias and other relatives of the victims, the memories of that
horrifying incident never cease to haunt them.
Letty spoke before a rally at the foot of the Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola)
Bridge last Jan. 22. Her voice
quivered as she recounted that afternoon exactly 16 years ago.
Letty was a member of Sanrayp, a peasant union in Magdalena, Laguna when she
joined the 15,000-strong protest march to Mendiola to demand from then President
Cory Aquino what have been deprived of the tillers for centuries: land.
they reached the foot of Mendiola bridge, the anti-riot team composed of the
Western Police District, Integrated National Police Field Force, two companies
of Philippine Marines Civil Disturbance Control Battalion and four 6x6 army
trucks and eight fire trucks blocked them.
the negotiation between the leaders of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP
– Peasant Movement in the Philippines) and the police officers was taking
place, the anti-riot team started firing at the protesters.
kami ng tear gas bago paputukan. Nanakbo
ako, walang sapatos. Nakapikit ako
habang tumatakbo, paliko-liko. Kung
saan-saan nanggagaling ang mga bala. Hanggang Liwasang Bonifacio sinundan kami”
(They sprayed tear gas before shooting us.
I ran, barefoot. My eyes
were closed. Bullets were coming from everywhere.
The police followed us all the way through Liwasang Bonifacio), related
died. Thirty-nine others had bullet
wounds and 12 were injured.
ngayon, nakakaramdam pa rin ako ng galit kapag naaalala ko. Hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring hustisya ang pagkamatay ng
pinsan ko at ng iba pang biktima” (Until now, I get angry every time I
remember. Until now, there is no
justice for the death of my cousin and other victims), said Aling Letty.
Letty’s cousin, Danilo Arjona, was one of the 13 peasants killed in the
cased filed against the police and military men involved in the massacre was
dismissed by Judge Edilberto Sandoval, presiding judge of Branch 9 of the
Regional Trial Court on May 31, 1988. In
August of the same year, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the RTC
because of “immunity of the government from suit.”
to life and militarization
Letty said their group Pagkakaisa at Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka sa Laguna (PUMALAG)
also condemns the intensifying militarization in the countryside. Today, 26 battalions of the Armed Forces have been
deployed in Southern Tagalog. Aling
Letty observed that their province Laguna has become a laboratory of the
government’s anti-insurgency campaign.
many barangays (villages), the military obliges the local folk to attend a
meeting and orients them against the New People’s Army.
Any one who refuses to attend will be considered as NPA supporters and/or
members, she said.
na ang pinatay sa amin. Ako na sana
ang pang-lima kundi ako naging maingat. Nasa order of battle na ako” (Four have already been killed from our place.
I could have been the fifth if I was not careful.
I am included in the order of battle), Aling Letty confessed.
related how her colleague Mila Belga, a member of Gabriela and Karapatan was
killed last July 22, 2001. “Pinatay
siya sa harap ng mga anak niya. Biyak
ang puso. May tatlong tama ng baril”
(She was shot in front of her children).
Letty also cited Phillip Lapa, a farm worker in Milagros Farm who was killed by
members of Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
matindi ang nagaganap na militarisasyon ngayon”(Militarization has become
even worse), Aling Letty said.
continuing struggle for land
Letty said that majority of the farmers are still landless.
cited as example the 13 peasants in Hacienda Reyes in Calauan, Laguna who were
charged with theft, the 365 peasant families in Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang,
Laguna who were evicted from their land.
lang naman ang pangarap ng mga magsasaka: tunay na reporma sa lupa dahil ang
lupa ay para sa magsasaka. Kung
mayroon kaming lupa, sa kuko lang. Kahit
sa paso, wala” (As farmers, we only have one dream: genuine land reform
because the land is for the tillers. We
only have soil in our fingernails. We
do not even have a pot of soil.), said Aling Letty.
whether she still have confidence with the government, she said, “Ang mga
burukrata natin ay mga panginoong maylupa rin.
Tanging sa sama-samang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka at iba pang aping sektor
makakamit natin ang ating mga kahilingan”
(Our bureaucrats are also big landlords.
It is only through the collective action of the farmers and other
exploited sectors can we achieve our demands.)
Jan. 22 for 16 years, Aling Letty has been religiously attending the rally at
Mendiola to commemorate the peasant massacre.
She said that going to the streets is but one form of struggle adding she
understands why many others take the other option. Bulatlat.com
want to know what you think of this article.