DAVAO CITY—Farmers belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) set off on Wednesday for a 10-day caravan that will end up in a long march to Malacanang to mark the 23rd year of the farmers’ massacre in Mendiola.
Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary-general, said the caravan seeks to express the farmers’ disgust over the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the “deceptive” nature of its extension and the worsening conditions of farmers all over the country.
He said farmers continue to be deprived of land and justice 23 years after the massacre in Mendiola, where farmers demanding for genuine land reform were shot by soldiers.
The caravan will gather farmers from Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon to dramatize their call for land and justice on January 22, where 13 farmers were killed and 51 others were wounded in Mendiola 23 years ago.
Farmers also bore the brunt of injustice and the culture of impunity in the country, he said. Ramos also said a total of 561 farmers have fallen victims of extrajudicial killings, or more than half of close to a thousand victims monitored by the human rights group Karapatan since President Arroyo took power in 2001.
Of the 561 peasants killed, 119 were KMP members and leaders. Ramos also said 129 peasants have also disappeared.
Bearing torches and placards and calling for the scrapping of the law that extended CARP, farmers marched towards the Quirino office of House Speaker Prospero Nograles, a close Arroyo ally who has been initiating moves for Charter change in Congress.
Ramos said they oppose the move for Charter change because this is a ploy to extend President Arroyo’s stay in power. He also said that Nograles also favored changing the Charter to allow 100 per cent ownership of the country’s land and resources, a scheme that will further deprive farmers of lands to till.
The protesting farmers will leave Davao city for Butuan city Wednesday to meet those coming from Cagayan de Oro. From Butuan, they will proceed to Surigao city and will be connected by barge to Calbayog in Leyte, where they will follow the route to Catarman, Samar, Sorsogon, Legazpi, Naga, Lucena, Calamba all the way to Baclaran Church in Muntinlupa. From the north, another group of farmers will start off from Tarlac city and will follow the route to Clark, Angeles, San Fernando, Meycawayan and Monumeno in Caloocan.
Ramos said over 7,000 of them will join together in Quezon City on January 21 to prepare for the long march to Malacanang on the following day to mark the 23rd year of the Mendiola massacre. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)