After 37 years of Mendiola Massacre, justice remains elusive, struggle for land distribution continue

Justice remains elusive almost four decades after the bloody dispersal in Mendiola where 13 farmers, including peasant woman Adelfa Aribe, were killed and 50 others injured on January 22, 1987. Thousands of farmers and peasant rights advocates marched towards the Malacañang Palace demanding for free land distribution and living wage in the midst of massive landlessness and poverty.

Years on, in the face of persistent adversity, farmers and advocates for peasant rights march on. Vast tracts of land remain disproportionately concentrated in the hands of a select few landlords or under the dominion of agro-corporations and plantations. This protracted struggle has given rise to a new generation of farmers and activists, committed to demanding free land distribution, adequate funds for agricultural subsidies, and facilities.

Farmers including peasant women continue to organize themselves and reclaim their access and control over land and resources through different means. Alarmingly, these actions were met with violence by state forces, private goons of landlord-politicians, and through intensified militarization in rural areas.

Attacks against peasant advocates particularly intensified during the Duterte administration, with a long list of women farmers and peasant advocates killed by state forces. This includes Elisa Badayos, who was killed in 2017 in Negros; farmer Leonila Pesadilla, who donated a parcel of their land to a Lumad (indigenous) school; and Cora Lina, an active member of United Farmers in Laak in Compostela Valley. 

Rights violations against peasant women continued during the Marcos Jr. administration, from illegal arrest and detention to extrajudicial killings, including the enforced disappearances of peasant and land rights advocates Ma. Elena “Cha” Pampoza and Elgene “Leleng” Mungcal in Central Luzon.

Despite the pervasive attacks, peasant women remain steadfast and militant. They actively participate in the struggle for emancipation, presenting alternatives and taking action to address hunger and poverty. Those who were left with no other recourse, have chosen to confront guns with guns, joining revolutionary groups in the pursuit of land and justice.

In remembrance of the victims of the Mendiola Massacre, the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) stands united with peasant women and rights advocates in resolutely demanding land to the tillers and echoing the enduring call for justice. #

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