MANILA – Farmers from Southern Luzon on Wednesday staged a protest at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City to start their memorial of the 30th anniversary of the Mendiola massacre this week.
For members of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog (Kasama-TK), justice has yet to be served for the bloody dispersal at the Mendiola Bridge in Manila that killed 13 people on January 22, 1987.
They called on the Duterte administration to deliver genuine land reform and end the alleged violent suppression of farmers in the provinces.
The group held a rally outside the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) office Wednesday morning to raise concerns of coconut growers, which include the disposition of the Coco Levy Fund, which was put on hold by the Supreme Court. The farmers want the fund turned over to them.
Representatives of the group were granted a dialogue with PCA administrator Billy Andal.
During the meeting, Andal reiterated the agency's position that the PCA should handle the coco levy funds to protect the interests of coconut farmers.
Andal also told the representatives he would investigate in 3 days their allegations that copra traders were ripping off the farmers they were buying coconuts from.
He also said the PCA would look into cases of local-level agency officials who allegedly ignored concerns raised by farmers.
The reported officials would be called to account, he said. Should such cases happen again, Andal told the farmers to complain to his office directly.
The PCA and the farmers' representatives then set a wider face-to-face dialogue among the farmers, traders, local PCA and local government in Camarines Norte this February.
The Kasama-TK group will camp outside the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) building near the PCA office until Friday. They will request for a dialogue with the DAR on Thursday and conduct a solidarity program that night.
On Friday, they will join other people's organizations as they march to Mendiola and Malacañang Palace to commemorate the Mendiola massacre.