Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s term will now go down in history as the massacre years. If Aquino supporters can blame all atrocities committed by members of the military and police on the late former President Ferdinand Marcos during the Martial Law years, then it is only fair that Filipinos blame the atrocities committed by the military and police today on the current President. Two parties can play the blame-game, not just the Aquino supporters. After all, who else can be held accountable for the actions of those under BS Aquino’s command but him, right?
What is it with the Aquinos and farmers? Even during his late mother’s term in office, the public was not spared from reports of atrocities against poor protesters. The Cory years was synonymous with numerous coup d’états and what is now dubbed the Mendiola Massacre. That was when government forces opened fire on 20,000 farmers killing 13. The protesters were on their way to Malacanang hoping to have a dialogue with Cory regarding their grievances but were met with violence instead. It was ironic the “democracy” icon hid behind government forces instead of listening to the farmer’s woes.
In 2004 another massacre took place. That tragedy happened inside the Aquino-Cojuangco manor – Hacienda Luisita. Cory was not the President anymore at that time but you can say that she still wielded power. Since she was still in good terms with former President Gloria Arroyo, Cory was able to convince Arroyo to send government troops – combined PNP and AFP forces – to help disperse the more than 6000 Hacienda Luisita farmers who were protesting the manner of land distribution implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform. Unfortunately, things turned deadly after the troops opened fire killing seven farmers. More than a decade later, the victims and their families have not received justice.
Now Cory’s son BS Aquino’s term is plagued by the same violence and death. One can be forgiven for thinking the Aquinos only bring doom and gloom to Philippine society.
It doesn’t help that BS Aquino doesn’t seem to value the lives of those who are not members of his inner circle. This was evident after the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Forces by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. BS Aquino’s callous behavior before and after their deaths outraged the Filipino public. He was alleged to have asked the military to stand down instead of help the SAF troops even when he was told the terrorist group besieged them. And instead of receiving their bodies when these were flown back to Manila, he chose to attend a car plant inauguration. The flak he got from the public was rightly-deserved.
Three more dead farmers will haunt BS Aquino in his waking hours. Just a few weeks before the Presidential Election, the incompetence and neglect of BS Aquino’s government had once again been demonstrated during the recent violent and deadly dispersal of farmers who were simply asking for assistance during the drought. North Cotabato was already placed under a state of calamity in January due to the dry spell brought about by El Niño but the government still acted in slow motion.
The farmers were simply asking for 15,000 sacks of rice to feed their families. Considering the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Food Authority often throw out rotting rice from their warehouses, it boggles the mind to think about why the government could not even give in to the farmers’ needs.
Now the farmers have run out of patience for the government’s bureaucracy. When asked why it took so long for the local government to act, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said she still had to validate who their constituents are because she thinks not all protesters are from Cotabato. It seems the public official wanted to make sure she was helping only those who are going to vote for her in the next election. She should have realized she was dealing with starving farmers who had nothing to lose. It was either drop dead in their homes or form a human barricade on the highway to demand attention from the public.
It’s too bad as well that the government troops did not practice restraint. Some of the government’s supporters are saying that it was the protesters who started the violence. It would be hard to confirm that information while the smoke hasn’t cleared and it is their word against the farmers. Who started the violence is also beside the point. Just like in a schoolyard fistfight, it doesn’t matter who started the provocation. If someone ends up dead or hurt, it will be the perpetrator who gets prosecuted. The government forces who were carrying powerful weapons should have known better than to use firepower against the unarmed farmers.
Unfortunately for BS Aquino, public sympathy now lies with the dead and wounded farmers. The public is now aware of the way his government deals with issues. In so many occasions, he has shown how insensitive and uncaring he is of the plight of those in need of assistance – the farmers and the SAFs.
[Photo courtesy NCBC News.]