DAVAO CITY -- Farmers and supporting religious groups for the first time will kick off their 10-day nationwide march protest in this city Wednesday to commemorate the Mendiola massacre anniversary.
Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary General Danilo Ramos said the nationwide march dubbed "Pambansang Lakbayan ng Magsasaka Para sa Lupa at Katarungan" will be joined by more than 7,000 farmers and will culminate on January 22, Friday.
Ramos said the rally will air the farmers' unending demand for fair land distribution and justice for the deaths of their fellows allegedly murdered during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's nine-year reign.
"This is not just to remember the deaths of many farmers at that time with myself as a survivor of the massacre. It is to remember that until now, justice still has not been met for them and the 32 farmers murdered during our fake president's time," Ramos said.
He added that victims of land grabbing and human rights abuses will also participate in the nationwide 10-day rally, “in a bid for land rights and justice amidst the failure of the Carp (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program), their disgust about Carp's five-year extension and the culture of impunity in the country."
On Tuesday, a separate march rally and lighting of 100 torches were already held in this city. Protesting farmers and members of religious groups marched from Freedom Park to House Speaker Prospero Nograles' office at Quirino Avenue.
KMP-Southern Mindanao Region Chairman Pedro Arnado said KMP "vehemently condemns" Nograles' participation in the approval of the Carper Law, among others.
"The Carper law is a legal anti-farmer law. Ang ginagawa nito ay binibigyan ng DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) ng Cloa (Certificate of Land Ownership Award) or CLT (Certificate of Land Title) ang mga magsasaka pero papel lang ito at nananatiling vulnerable and mga farmers to lang grabbing (Under this law, DAR gives the farmers Cloa or CLT, but these are just mere papers and the farmers are still vulnerable to land grabbing)," Ramos said.
"Carper still holds that essence of retaining land holding of big and powerful individuals who take advantage of the farmers. It also opens the country's lands to foreigners," Ramos said in vernacular.
He added that genuine land reform to this day remains illusive, as corporations are given priorities and the government is considering granting foreigners 100 percent ownership of land in the country.
Ramos recalled -- being a survivor of the Mendiola massacre himself -- that 13 farmers were killed and 51 were wounded as state security forces violently dispersed a farmers' march in Malacañang on January 22, 1987.
Protesters were marching at Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila that time when government anti-riot forces opened fire at them. The incident occurred during the administration of Corazon C. Aquino, whom KMP to this day points of having been liable, Ramos said.
Ramos added that 1,000 torches will be lighted at Mendiola during the culmination. (Jade C. Zaldivar/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)