Thirty years ago today, on January 22, 1987, government troops shot down 13 protesting farmers — an event remembered as the Mendiola Massacre or Black Thursday.
To this day, annual commemorations are held in Manila to mark the event, and the families and survivors of the tragedy are yet to receive and justice or redress.
A peasant group called the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasants’ Movement of the Philippines) was marching on the Malacañang demanding land reform when the massacre unfolded on Mendiola bridge, Manila.
In the opening days of 1987, the administration of Cory Aquino had been in power for less than a year after the toppling of Ferdinand Marcos.
On January 15, 1987, members of the farmers group, led by Jaime Tadeo, had occupied the Ministry of Agrarian Reform in Diliman, Quezon City. On January 20, the farmers were assured that their concerns, particularly relating to free land distribution, would be raised at the following day’s cabinet meeting at the Malacañang.
However, the day passed without any sign of progress, so on January 22 the farmers decided to march to the Malacañang to air their demands directly rather than continue negotiating with agrarian reform minister Heherson Alvarez.
After setting off from the Quezon Memorial Circle, Tadeo’s group was joined by members of other militant organisations, including 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 about lunchtime, the marchers reached Liwasang Bonifacio and paused to hold a brief rally. Meanwhile, anti-riot personnel were massing around the Malacañang, complete with water cannons, fire trucks and “Mobile Dispersal Teams” equipped with tear gas.
The marchers numbered 10,000–15,000 by the time they reached Recto Avenue. Upon arrival, they clashed with the police and other security personnel, and breached their lines.
Suddenly, gunshots rang out and the marchers fled for their lives. In the ensuing chaos, 13 were killed, and dozens injured.
The Citizens Mendiola Commission, set up after the incident, recommended the filing of criminal charges against those responsible. A class suit filed by the families of victims against government officials was dismissed in 1988 by the Manila Regional Trial Court. The Supreme Court upheld this decision in 1993 saying that the government had immunity from suit.
As of today, nobody has ever been arrested or convicted for the killings, while families and survivors continue to fight for justice.