Nine years ago, we were witness to a tragedy. That dark day in January 1987, peasant farmers marching peacefully to Malacañang to lobby for a genuine agrarian reform program were met by a phalanx of soldiers and policemen at Mendiola. There the farmers’ march was stopped, not by government’s eloquent promises or words of reassurance, but by the harsher crescendoes of firing rifles. Once again that storied site, that graveyard for so many unfulfilled dreams, was drenched with the blood of those seeking a better life.
That day at Mendiola, whatever desperate hopes we still had for the Aquino government were forever lost–shattered by the agonized screams of fallen peasants. The Mendiola massacre was a tragedy, no doubt. But it was also the end to an illusion, and as such, it was also the birth of a new determination.
Nearly a decade after that bloody day, that determination, born from a vicious reawakening, seems to have availed us a little.
Agrarian reform remains as distant a dream as ever, the only state “concession” to it being that parody called CARL. If anything, the lot of Filipino farmers has worsened, what with rural “industrialization” poised to take away the meager incomes they manage to squeeze from the soil.
Government, likewise, continues to remain deaf to peasant concerns. The sluggishness of agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority in taking remedial measures during the outbreak of the rice crisis a few months back serves to emphasize the magnitude of state neglect. Up to now, the calls of various farmers’ organizations to implement a program for food security remain unheeded.
But perhaps more alarming than the shameful disregard for peasant issues is the general apathy of the citizenry toward government’s shortcomings. Nine years ago, Cory Aquino mesmerized us with hope until the Mendiola tragedy revealed the quality of her sincerity. Today, there is not even a pretense of such promise and yet we calmly stand by as the Ramos regime perpetuates incompetence and oppression. Do we need another tragic bloodletting to stir us from lethargy?
We must strive to remember the message of Mendiola. Else we will render those deaths that occurred nine years ago as senseless as the violence that caused them. ●
This editorial first appeared in the January 24, 1996 print edition of the Collegian.
Feb 10, 2024
Wala akong hangad na angkinin ang oras mo. Bakit ko naman gagawin iyon, kung sa mga kwento mo tungkol sa iyong pagkilos ay nakikita kitang masaya, nabubuhayan ng loob na magpatuloy at magpakahusay.
Feb 10, 2024
Bago maiahon ni Jimenez sa nais na katanyagan ang UP, esensyal na masigurong nakalapat muna ang kanyang pamumuno sa pagtugon sa kagyat na kahingian ng mga sektor ng pamantasan.