By Imee Charlee C. Delavin, Senior Reporter

DAR takes part in commemoration of 1987 Mendiola Massacre

Posted on January 21, 2017

THE DEPARTMENT of Agrarian Reform (DAR) joined the cause of farmers calling for genuine land reform days ahead of the commemoration of the Mendiola massacre which saw blood shed among the ranks of the peasantry in 1987.

Agrarian Reform Chief Rafael “Ka Paeng” V. Mariano, a Mendiola massacre survivor himself, led other DAR officials yesterday in announcing 13 action points that the department is committed to pursue in behalf of farmers killed in the hands of state forces during a protest rally that went out of control in historic Mendiola 30 years ago.

The weekend commemoration of this tragedy marks the official participation by a government agency, this time on the watch of a leftist administrator, one of a handful picked by President Rodrigo R. Duterte when he formed his Cabinet on the heels of his 2016 election victory.

Mr. Mariano pledged to call for justice for the victims by continuing to uphold the struggle for genuine agrarian reform and defending the rights of farmers.

Thousands of farmers trooped to Mendiola in 1987 demanding agrarian reform from the government which ended in a bloodbath and 13 farmers killed.

The DAR said in a statement on Friday that among the 13 action points -- which the agency is offering for those killed in the massacre -- are six administrative orders set to be signed by the DAR secretary on Jan. 23, which include an extension of the special rules on applications for land use conversion of areas for the resettlement of Super-typhoon Yolanda’s victims in 2013, and an amendment to the land acquisition and distribution form that no longer makes signing of the application to purchase and farmers’ undertaking (APFU) compulsory prior to land acquisition.

The DAR Chief also announced two landmark projects of DAR this year which include the “National Land Inventory and Profiling of ARBs [Agrarian-Reform Beneficiaries]” which is set to map all agrarian reform-covered lands and beneficiaries and the “Agrarian Justice on Wheels” which is envisioned to provide immediate assistance to farmers coping with land tenure problems.

In his speech in front of the hundreds of farmers present in Mendiola, Mr. Mariano mentioned that the past administration left behind more than 10,000 cases of cancellation of certificates of land ownership and awards, prompting the present administration to address land problems at the ground level.

“We will strengthen the Barangay Agrarian Reform Committees (BARC) because they are able to provide frontline services such as the mediation and conciliation proceedings in agrarian disputes,” Mr. Mariano was quoted as saying, adding that the agency will also put up three task forces to improve the department’s services to its stakeholders -- 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.

DAR will also propose that Jan. 22 be celebrated annually as National Farmers’ Recognition Day.

“As your DAR chief, we will continue to implement the agrarian reform laws in our country. However, we will continue to uphold our fight for genuine agrarian reform to make sure that lands will be given to our farmers free of charge,” Mr. Mariano further said.

At present, 4.8 million hectares of land have been awarded to around 2.7 million farmer-beneficiaries, the DAR said. Its statement cited data showing that the agency still has to distribute 621,085 hectares of land as part of the remaining land acquisition and distribution balance. Mr. Mariano aid he aims to distribute a total of 400,000 hectares to 379,236 ARBs by 2019.

Mr. Mariano in the statement said he will deliver the first State of the Agrarian Reform Address in July as part of his pledge to call for justice for the 13 victims of the Mendiola massacre.