By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla, Rey Manangan and Billy Javier Reyes
Manila, Philippines- 10,000 farmers and Manila based activists will walk 10 kilometer from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to demand free distribution of land and justice to victims of state repression. They will literally and figuratively paint the town red with their slogans for free land distribution and justice. And they will burn 1,500 pictures of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo once they reach the bridge of Mendiola.
“This is another shining moment, a triumphant class action from the Filipino peasantry. We will grab this political opportunity to strike our demand for free distribution of land and the rendering of justice to all victims of states-sponsored terrorism under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” said the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list –organizers of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan in a joint statement.
The long march will coincide with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre which claimed the lives of 13 farmers when military and police agents peppered protesting farmers with bullets in an intense and politically charged rally 23 years ago.
To highlight the long march, leaders of the Katipunan ng Mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) will set on fire an effigy billed as “Backhoe Gloria”, which they said symbolizes Arroyo’s crimes to the Filipino farmers like landlessness and political repression. The burning of the effigy will be held in Mendiola once they reach the historic bridge, organizers said.
The 7 ft. tall effigy made of spare woods and other scrap materials was crafted by the Laguna based Southern Tagalog Cultural Network, according to Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo. “The purpose of this effigy is to remind the people of Gloria’s monstrous reign,” she said.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos said the burning of 1,500 pictures of President Arroyo in Mendiola will symbolize the outrage of Filipino farmers against her government responsible for the gross denial of farmers’ rights to land, the brutal killings of 561 farmers and the fabricated criminal charges filed against peasant activists.
“With the burning of 1,500 pictures of Mrs. Arroyo, we figuratively speak the language of letting Mrs. Arroyo perish in the fires of hell for her agrarian crimes and injustice to millions of Filipino farmers. The prop action in Mendiola will also serve as a challenge and warning to the next sitting presidency in Malacanang,” added Ramos.
Ramos said marching farmers supported by 8,000 members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and other manila based activist groups will also present the” Peasant Manila Declaration for May 2010 elections”—a political-electoral document composed of set of demands challenging all presidential candidates on issues and demands of farmers like free land distribution.
However, the KMP official said the set of demands will no longer be presented to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, because the Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer, in all occasions, refuses to give up his family’s immoral and illegal control over the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita.
The Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) also turned the occasion into a political bashing against Senator Aquino. ULWU acting president Lito Bais said Sen. Aquino and the Cojuangco-Aquino clan will not give up the sugar plantation to farmer beneficiaries because the senator believes Hacienda Luisita was God’s gift to the Cojuangcos, and that farm workers working for several decades in the 6,453 hectare sugar estate are children of a lesser God for a lifetime.
“Senator Aquino is anti-farmer, a certified class enemy of farmers,” Bais said. According to Bais, around 100 farm workers of Hacienda Luisita joined the North leg of the 10-day Lakbayan. He said farmers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija merged with Luisita farm workers on their way to Manila for the big rally. #