STUNNED. That's the best word to describe my mind's reaction to the Mendiola Massacre. Exactly 24 years ago today, Thursday morning when I learned of the massacre incident that occurred at historic Mendiola the previous day.
I remember walking into the college library and seeing from a distance the headline in a newspaper my classmate was reading, held up with both hands to eye level. The picture of the lifeless bodies on the streets. The headline says Mendiola. Oh, well, he's reading an archive newspaper from Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship days, I thought.
Taking my seat beside him, I learned a most incredulous truth. That was no old Martial Law newspaper. The headline--it was that day's major news! Shocking, shocking news! After driving away the "evil" dictator, that Marcos, that heartless 'human-rights violator,' and installing the good gal, widow of beloved hero Ninoy Aquino via the most peaceful EDSA revolution, we get this????
How can farmer rallyists be possibly murdered just like that under the "democratic" presidency of Tita Cory? Marcos, the 'bad guy,' is gone, right? It actually took several seconds (or was it minutes?) before that reality sank in. It was simply unbelievable.
NOT Cory. ???
At any rate, Ninoy was my hero and his widow, the restorer of Philippine democracy. My mind had to reconcile the fact of the heinous Mendiola massacre with my view of the Corazon Cojuangco Aquino presidency. It must be the fascist military elements, I thought. No way Cory could have ordered that. That coup-plotting Juan Ponce Enrile and his RAM boys must have been behind that gruesome daylight massacre.
Of course, now I know better. Cory could not have been that innocent because, otherwise, her administration should have allowed the State to be sued. The case that began from the suit filed by the heirs of the 13 deceased victims and the injured who sued for damages against the Philippine Republic was eventually dismissed, affirmed by the Supreme Court because the State refused to given its consent to be sued. Besides, Cory was not exactly friends to noisy farmers who demand the just call of land reform. Cory's land reform program--the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)--was baloney since she couldn't even set the 'supreme sacrifice' of her family's Hacienda Luisita to genuine land distribution.
Fake, (Hacienda Luisita) Designer Land Reform
While the 1987 Mendiola Massacre involving the death of farmers pressing for genuine agrarian reform seemed to have made Cory speed up the implementation of land reform, she first had to insert a novel Stock Distribution Option (SDO) into her Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP (now the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or CARL). The SDO gives farmer tenants shares in a plantation corporation without actually transferring land. SDO had been criticized not only as possibly unconstitutional but more so, as a way for landowners to keep control of the land and farmers–and for the Cojuangco-Aquinos to avoid distributing Hacienda Luisita. As well, the Cory administration had the Court of Appeals dismiss the government case filed against the TADECO owners, who were no less than the President’s own family and kin (she is said to have divested herself of personal shares in the company).
When CARP took effect in 1989, the Cojuangco family adopted the SDO option despite many criticisms that the option disadvantaged the farmers. Only less than 5,000 out of the nearly 6,500 hectares of the original Hacienda Luisita land were submitted to the Agrarian Reform department. The exclusion of the combined 386.6 hectares of residential, commercial, road and other land improvement portions of the hacienda markedly lowered the value of land earmarked for land reform to only P40,000 per hectare. The valuation process was also seen as irregular if not appropriate, with the standing crop not only being included but also being categorized as non-land asset. The result is that when the land was incorporated into what is now Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) as spin-off of TADECO, the farmers became nominal shareholders, getting only 33.296% versus the 66.704 percent shares of the Cojuangco-Aquinos.
Gruesome Open Massacre
I found this actual video of the bloody, "historic" massacre 24 years and one day ago, LESS THAN A YEAR into the Cory Aquino presidency. The video is rather so gruesome that watching it yesterday initially made me don the same incredulous reaction I had back in my college days when I first learned the news of Mendiola Massacre. Even during the heyday of the dictatorship, Marcos did not engage in such open, daylight massacre.
The military back then--up to now--even had the guts to blame the farmer groups for supposedly having been infiltrated by the communist New People's Army (NPA). That was usual red scare stuff, of course. It is perhaps fortunate that some survivors of the "Black Thursday" massacre are still alive to tell their grim tales. Teresita Arjona, who was with her mother during the rally, tells of "owner-type" jeeps running around as the protesters were being shot at. Communist handiwork? I don't think so.
“Suddenly I heard shots. I didn’t know at first that they were gunshots; it sounded more like clapping. First it was intermittent, then soon the sound was loud and deafening. There was chaos, everyone began running away from the sound of gunfire. Men, women, children were running. Yes, there were children with us that day. I also ran, and I am a little ashamed even now to admit that I failed to help those whom I saw fall on the pavement. It was all I could do to keep from falling myself.”
“Everyone was running, running every which way. All I could think of was getting to Lawton where the caravan vehicles were; that and returning to my children. I didn’t know what happened to Danilo, I didn’t see if he was able to run or get away. I was crying as I ran and I didn’t immediately notice that my mother and I were both barefoot. The streets were littered with slippers and bags and streamers and placards. People were yelling, but I didn’t know if it was in pain or in outrage,” she says.
Nanay Tess herself felt rage when she saw, even as she ran for safety, that there were “owner-type” jeeps driving alongside the protestors who were scurrying for safety. “They were shooting at us, at everyone who was running!” she says, anger in her eyes, in her voice.
The following are excerpts of the Mendiola Massacre as recounted by Bulatlat :
On Jan. 22, 1987, some 10,000 to 15,000 farmers marched from the agrarian reform office in Quezon City to Mendiola in Manila to remind the late former president Corazon C. Aquino to make good on her word to implement genuine agrarian reform. According to reports, anti-riot personnel under the command of then Capital Regional Command commander Gen. Ramon Montaño, Task Force Nazareno under the command of Col. Cesar Nazareno and police forces under the command of Western Police District (WPD) Chief Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim had been prepared to block the protestors.
The phalanx of civil disturbance control units was comprised of policemen from the WPD, members of the Integrated National Police Field Force, members of the Philippine Marine Corps, and the Marine Civil Disturbance Control Battalion. Behind the line of these fully armed personnel were army trucks, water cannons, fire trucks and two Mobile Dispersal Teams prepared to launch tear gas.
At the back of the marines were four 6×6 army trucks, occupying the entire width of Mendiola street, followed immediately by two water cannons, one on each side of the street and eight fire trucks, four trucks on each side of the street. Stationed farther behind the CDC forces were the two Mobile Dispersal Teams (MDT) each composed of two tear gas grenadiers, two spotters, an assistant grenadier, a driver and the team leader.
As the farmers reached Claro M. Recto, the government forces attacked. In the melee, 13 farmers were killed, 39 were wounded by gunshots, and 20 suffered various injuries. Killed were Danilo Arjona, Evangelio, Leopoldo Alonzo, Angelito Guiterrez, Adelfa Aribe, Rodrigo Grampan, Dionisio Bautista, Bernabe Laquindanum, Roberto Caylo, Sonny Boy Perez, Vincent Campomanes, Roberto Yumul, and Ronilo Dumanico.
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, the peace panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) withdrew from peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
24 Years Later, the Wounds of Mendiola Still Bleed. 22 January 2010. http://bulatlat.com/main/2011/01/22/24-years-later-the-wounds-of-mendiola-still-bleed/
Atty. Fred. The Mendiola Massacre: What Happened according to Jurisprudence. 22 January 2008. http://jlp-law.com/blog/the-mendiola-massacre-what-happened-according-to-jurisprudence/
Silverio, Inna Alleco. Farmers Urge Noynoy to Reopen Mendiola Massacre Case. 14 January 2011.
Bernardo, Jesusa. HACIENDA LUISITA: Land Theft, Massacres, Assassinations, SDO. 18 August 2010. http://blog-by-taga-ilog-news.blogspot.com/2010/08/hacienda-luisita.html
Collage photo art: Jesusa Bernardo
Jo A. Santos / bulatlat.com
Noynoy Hacienda Luisita- The Real Story-Part 1. Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D9v0-5EWaU&feature=player_embedded