|Location||Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila, Philippines|
|Date||January 22, 1987
approximately 4:30 p.m. (UTC +8)
|74 (51 demonstrators, 23 state security forces)|
|Perpetrators||Philippine state security forces|
The Mendiola massacre, also called Black Thursday by some Filipino journalists, was an incident that took place in Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila, Philippines on January 22, 1987, in which state security forces violently dispersed a farmers' march to Malacañang Palace in protest of the lack of government action on land reform.
Calls for just and comprehensive land reforms to then President Corazon Aquino sparked rallies and demonstrations participated by farmers, workers, and students. According to the reports, anti-riot personnel guised as civilians, opened fire on unarmed protesters initially killing at least 13 protesters and injuring almost a hundred.
Causes of the protest
Aquino's election to the Presidency brought about the prospects of rebuilding the formal institutions of democracy and the fundamentals of the Philippine economy left weakened by the regime of the ousted dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Optimism towards the Aquino administration was counteracted by political instability brought about by the dictatorial regime. Conflicts with secessionist groups in Mindanao coupled with ballooning national debts and severe economic inequality plagued the newly installed administration.
One such severe manifestation of this economic inequality can be seen in the agrarian problems of the Philippines at that time. Promised land reforms during the Marcos’ regime failed to bring agrarian justice to the farmers. Instead, the cronies and oligarchs of the Marcos regime perpetuated the abuse of farmers and peasants. The newly raised administration acted as a fresh opportunity for minorities to supplicate their respective grievances. The farmers pushed to the new government amendments in the agrarian law. However, their representatives were told by Minister Heherson Alvarez to just wait for the finalization of the new Philippine Constitution and the new Congress, which made the farmers suspicious of this indecisiveness. Furthermore, the newly formed Congress that will supposedly make the laws that will carry out the reforms, is dominated by the landlords. Aquino’s EO 229 failed to address the root of agrarian problems of the country, disappointing the farmers and causing them to protest against the administration.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Filipino, "Farmworkers Movement of the Philippines"), a militant farmers' group led by Jaime Tadeo, demanded genuine agrarian reform from the Aquino government. On January 15, 1987, members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas encamped at the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (now the Department of Agrarian Reform) in Diliman, Quezon City.The group presented their problems and demands, which were to: give land for free to farmers, zero retention of lands by landlords, and stop amortizations of land payments. Dialogue between the farmers, represented by Jaime Tadeo, and the government, represented by then Agrarian Reform minister Heherson Alvarez took place on January 20, 1987. Alvarez promised to bring the matter to the President's attention during the next day's cabinet meeting.
The response of the administration towards these protests, particularly in the Mendiola incident, was a violent dispersal. Whether or not it was a deliberate action or a miscommunicated order, the Mendiola incident showed that the people are dissatisfied with the self-preserving oligarchs-legislators that backed Cory’s administration. The violent dispersal became a tipping point for key anti-government groups such as National Democratic Front (NDF) to defer from the peace talks with the government ending hopes for peace reconciliation for the furtherance of agrarian reforms
March to Malacañang
On January 22, 1987, the farmers decided to march to Malacañang Palace in order to air their demands instead of negotiating with Heherson Alvarez. Marching from the Quezon Memorial Circle, Tadeo's group was joined by members of other militant groups: Kilusang Mayo Uno (May One Movement), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), League of Filipino Students and Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (Unity Congress of the Urban Poor). At 1:00 in the afternoon, the marchers reached Liwasang Bonifacio and held a brief presentation. At around the same time, anti-riot personnel under the command of Capital Regional Command commander Gen. Ramon Montaño, Task Force Nazareno under the command of Col. Cesar Nazareno and police forces under the command of Western Police District Chief Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim were deployed around the vicinity of Malacañang.
The first line of civil disturbance control units consisted of policemen from the Western Police District. About ten yards behind the policemen were Integrated National Police Field Force units. The third line, a further ten yards from the second police line, consisted of a Philippine Marine Corps unit, the Marine Civil Disturbance Control Battalion. Positioned behind the Marines were army trucks, water cannons, fire trucks and two Mobile Dispersal Teams equipped with tear gas delivery gear.
The marchers numbered 10,000–15,000 by the time they reached Recto Avenue. They clashed with the police, and the police lines were breached. At this point, gunshots were heard and the marchers disengaged from the melee, retreating towards Claro M. Recto Avenue. Sporadic gunfire could be heard amidst the withdrawal. Alfredo Lim, the mayor of Manila in 2007, maintains that the Marines were responsible for the shooting.
The Western Police District, Marines, Special Weapons and Tactics team, and the Military all colluded to barricade the entrance of the Malacañang Palace. They formed multiple lines of defense, but still were not able to fend of the marching rallyists. The second line of defense, composed of the Marines, fired warning shots and threw pillbox and tear gas canisters to the supporters which started an even worse commotion. Twelve marchers were immediately confirmed dead, at least four of which were reportedly members of the New People's Army based in Bataan. At least fifty people were reportedly injured, six of which were policemen; the victims were taken to different hospitals around the area namely: Far Eastern University Hospital, Philippine General Hospital, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, UST Hospital, Mary Chiles Hospital, Singian, and Ospital ng Maynila.
Death toll rose the next day, reaching eighteen deaths. Injury toll also rose to one hundred one people. As a response to the Mendiola Massacre, the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas leaders announced that they will be staging a nationwide protest condemning the mass killing. An estimated 750,000 members and another 2,000,000 familiars were expected to join the said protest. As part of the protest, farmers were instructed to go on a farming strike, barricading major produce routes, and forcibly seizing agricultural inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers from abusive landlords. KMP leader Jaime Tadeo also demanded for the immediate resignation of then Defense Minister Rafael Ileto, Gen. Fidel Ramos, Brig. Gen. Ramon Montano, and Brig. Gen. Alfredo Lim for "they were directly involved in the massacre."
Then exiled dictator Ferdiand Marcos released a statement in Honolulu regarding the mass shooting. In his statement, he showed vexation towards the reaction of the armed forces towards the rallyists. He also accused the then President Corazon Aquino of having a private militia known as "The Yellow Army."
Gen. Ramon Montano said in an interview that the marchers were the ones who started the shooting in an attempt to break the barricade set up by the armed forces. However, he admittedly said that the military forces might have "overreacted" on their response to the protesters.
Following the bloodbath was the February 4, 1987 letter addressed to President Corazon Aquino indicating the desires of most of the Filipinos, especially the poor and the oppressed, which is "bringing about a more progressive and stable foundation for upholding their rights." The KMP emphasizes on the incompetence of the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, which was strongly believed to be the primary reason why the Mendiola Massacre happened on the first place. Lastly, the letter demands for the Aquino government to mend its governance and side with the Filipinos, particularly to the peasants, workers, and the poor.
The Citizen's Mendiola Commission (CMC), formed by Aquino to investigate on the incident released its official report on the day of February 27, 1987. The commissioners noted that the rallyers did not secure a permit; the members of crowd-disturbance units were armed with pistols and armalites; armed soldiers in civilian clothes were among the crowd; some of the demonstrators carried weapons; and Jaime Tadeo, KMP's leader uttered words that incited sedition. Unfortunately, the commission failed to identify who fired on the marchers and recommended further investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Overall, the findings were not conclusive as to who should be held responsible for the killings. On February 28, 1987, upon completing the investigations regarding the Mendiola Massacre the Citizens Mendiola Commission suggested to President Aquino to file sedition charges to KMP Chairman Jaime Tadeo.
Immediate Consequences of the Protest
In protest over the massacre, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, Jose Diokno and J.B.L. Reyes, resigned from the government. Moreover, other members of the Presidential Committee on Human Rights asked for the resignation of Defense Minister Ileto and Gen. Fidel V. Ramos for their alleged complicity in the Mendiola Massacre. (Malaya, 24 January 1987)
Crispin Beltran, leader of Kilusang Mayo Uno, spoke on behalf of the protesters when he stated that they wanted no more bloodshed: “We shall return tomorrow with no weapons, but armed with courage and determination to seek justice for our slain comrades." True enough, the number of protesters near the Malacanang Palace increased, from the initial 10,000 to over 15,000 and growing. As a result of the increased dialogue between the government and the rallyists, more protests and the number of protesters increased, and not just at the site of the Mendiola Bridge and the Malacanang Palace. In Pampanga, an estimated 2,000 protesters barricaded highways, including the highway linking Eastern Pampanga and San Fernando, and the highway linking Porac town and Angeles City. (Malaya, 26 January 1987) Talks regarding the Agrarian Reforms were shortly suspended because both sides failed to reach a common agenda, due to the real threat to the members of both panels at the time. (Pertaining to the rebels and insurgents against the Aquino administration at the time)
On another note, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) challenged President Corazon Aquino to sign an executive order carrying out a minimum program of land reform presented to her by the Kilusang Magbubukid. Aside from the challenge of the NUSP, KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) Chairman Jaime Tadeo said that the Aquinos should distribute their 6,000 hectare (14,600 acre) estate in Central Luzon as a model for land reform. In response to this, President Corazon Aquino was reportedly prepared to distribute at least parts of Hacienda Luisita, and the Aquino sugar plantation as part of the supposed land reform program. In order to improve relations with the protesters, (including the groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno, The August Twenty-One Movement, and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) President Corazon Aquino allowed the protesters to cross the Mendiola Bridge and march towards the Malacanang Palace. (Malaya, 27 January 1987)
Government Legislation as Response
As a response to the incident, in 1987, the Aquino Government implemented the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). It was passed as "an agriculturally based economically driven" reform. This reform applied to all types of agricultural land, both public and private, regardless of tenure arrangement and crops produced. It aimed to redistribute 9,773,870 ha of land to 3,713,110 beneficiaries.
However, CARP experienced slow implementation due to: the land evaluation processes of the time, the lack of guidelines for landowner compensation, troubles with landowner-tenant negotiations, and the lack of institutional coordination between agrarian administrative agencies.
Reception of CARP
Because of the problems in the implementation of CARP, public faith in government credibility and its capability to undertake reforms diminished.
The farmers' response to this legislation was also extremely critical. They asserted that the legislation goes against the democratic process of land ownership and protects landlord interests. They also claim that it was passed as a counter-insurgency measure, instead of for genuine social justice.
The government disallowed the conduct of demonstrations at Mendiola. However, in January 2008, Mayor Alfredo Lim, allowed rallies at the landmark, as long as they were held on weekends and holidays.
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