Mariano to sign 13 agrarian reform orders to remember Mendiola Massacre
MANILA — A survivor of that infamous bloodshed at Malacañang’s doorstep, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano will dedicate to the 13 farmers killed in the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre, the same number of pro-farmer undertakings to spur agrarian reform.
Nearly seven months in office, the 60-year-old former peasant leader and party-list congressman chose to sign and launch 13 major orders and programs on Monday (Jan. 23) as his way to commemorate the massacre.
Describing them as landmark projects, he said he would launch a national inventory of all the lands that have supposedly been distributed under agrarian reform and their respective farmer-beneficiaries, as well as the “Agrarian Justice on Wheels.”
He will also create three task forces to focus on the department’s main goals namely the National Land Acquisition and Distribution Team; the National Task Force for Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Installation; and the National Task Force Against Illegal and Premature Conversion of Agricultural Lands.
Among the administrative orders he will sign is one that will cut the red tape for land acquisition and distribution, and another that will extend land use conversion applications that cover resettlement sites for victims of the 2013 Typhoon Yolanda.
Mariano proposed declaring the day of the Mendiola Massacre as “National Farmers’ Recognition Day” and the Department of Agrarian Reform would lead the nationwide celebration annually.
On January 22, 198, some 20,000 farmers and farm workers marched to Malacañang hoping to have a dialogue with then President Corazon Aquino for land distribution and decent wages.
They were stopped at Mendiola (now Chino Roces) bridge where security forces opened fire at them. Thirteen farmers were killed and several more were injured, but no one has been identified and prosecuted for being responsible for the bloodshed.
Mariano said he has been seeking justice for the massacre victims by defending farmer rights and pursuing genuine agrarian reform.
“As your DAR chief, we will continue to implement our agrarian reform laws. We will continue to fight for genuine agrarian reform to make sure that lands will be given to our farmers free of charge,” he said.
Mariano said the “National Land Inventory and Profiling of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries” project would look into the status of all agrarian reform-covered lands and their beneficiaries.
The “Agrarian Justice on Wheels,” meanwhile, will provide immediate assistance to farmers suffering from land tenure problems.
He signs on Monday (Jan. 23) an administrative order for the extension of special rules on applications for land use conversion of areas, which he called necessary for the resettlement areas of Typhoon Yolanda’s victims.
Another administrative order he will sign amends the land acquisition and distribution form, in order to do away with the signing of the application to purchase and farmers’ undertaking (APFU) that used to be required prior to land acquisition.
Mariano said the past DAR administration left behind more than 10,000 cases of cancellation of certificates of land ownership and awards, disenfranchising farmers who have been previously awarded the lands they till.
“We will strengthen the barangay agrarian reform committees because they are able to provide frontline services, such as mediation and conciliation proceedings in agrarian disputes,” he said.
According to DAR records, 4.8 million hectares of land have been awarded to 2.7 million farmer-beneficiaries since 1972. The original target when the agrarian reform law was passed in 1988 was to distribute 10.3 million hectares.
President Corazon Aquino signed the comprehensive agrarian reform law on June 10, 1988. The program ended after 20 years in 2008 but was extended for another five years.
By the time the extension expired on June 30, 2014, DAR has not finished issuing notices of coverage to private landholdings, mostly sugar plantations in the Negros provinces.
According to DAR data, it still has to distribute 621,085 hectares, the balance of its land acquisition and distribution program as of June 30, 2014 when the law expired without a second extension.
Mariano said they have been working to distribute 400,000 hectares to 379,236 agrarian reform beneficiaries by 2019. SFM
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