Different progressive groups here in Manila, marked the first week of the Kidapawan bloody dispersal, dubbed as Global Day of Action for food, land and justice, today, April 8. The groups demanded full accountability from the Aquino government and the local government of North Cotabato.
After the concelebrated mass at Quiapo church, the groups marched to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola) carrying banners that read, “Bigas hindi bala. Pagkain at hustisya para sa mga magsasaka (Rice not bullet. Food and justice for the peasants).”
Renato Reyes, Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general slammed Aquino for remaining silent on the Kidapawan bloody dispersal. He said Malacañang Palace is trying to downplay the issue as a concern only of the local government. Government makes it appear that the problem was created by the protesting farmers who blocked the highway, and belittled their starvation, government negligence, and the violation of their rights.
“This is not only a problem of the local government. This is a problem of the national government, because the Philippines – from north Luzon to Mindanao – is experiencing drought,” Reyes said.
Superstar Nora Aunor and theater actress Monique Wilson joined today’s protest action demanding justice for farmers who were violently dispersed by police forces last week.
Aunor said national leaders should resign. “Bumaba na sila dahil wala naman slang nagagawang kabutihan para sa mamamayan lalo na sa mga mahihirap na tao… Nagmasaker sila ng mga taong walang ibang kahilingan kundi bigas.” (They should step down because they are not doing anything good for the people, especially the poor…They massacred those who were only asking for rice.)
Wilson lambasted efforts by the government to muddle the issue. She scored those who are saying that the farmers were just influenced by the Left. “Matatalino po ang mga magsasaka…Hindi po tanga ang mga magsasaka. Nandun sila sa protest sapagkat sila ay gutom.” (Farmers are intelligent people…Farmers are not dumb. They were there at the protest because they are hungry.)
Senators who conducted an inquiry into the April 1 violent dispersal of farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City said police forces should not have brought firearms.
During the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said the use of firearms in dispersal of protest actions was prohibited to avoid violent incidents.
“If the protesters have rocks, you only use shields and batons. Why do you use firearms during dispersal? If you have firearms you will use it because you are also wounded, you are also mad. That’s why we regulate the police not to use firearms (during dispersals),” said Cayetano.
Makabayan senatorial candidate Rep. Neri Colmenares hit Liberal Party presidential aspirant Mar Roxas and the Aquino administration for blaming drought-stricken farmers for the violent dispersal in Kidapawan City on April 1.
Colmenares said Roxas and the Aquino administration have been “moving heaven and earth to divert from the real issue and the root cause of the Kidapawan bloodbath.”
Roxas and other Aquino Cabinet members have claimed that the violent dispersal of the farmers’ barricade has to do with politics.
“Kung busog ang mga magsasaka, kahit anong sulsol mo hindi nila iiwanan ang lupa nila para pumunta sa kapitolyo (If the farmers were contented, they will not leave their land and go to the capitol),” said Colmenares.
Foreign lawyers from all over the world condemned the Philippine government for violating farmers’ civil and political rights as well as social and economic rights.
In a statement signed by its president Jeanne Mirer, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), a non-governmental organization with consultative status in the United Nations, condemned the April 1 massacre of farmers in Kidapawan City and deplored the injuries of hundreds of farmers and the illegal incarceration and detention of others.
“The actions of the Filipino police violate the rights to life and to be free from arbitrary detention enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the right to food guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” the IADL said.
People bring matter-of-life-or-death issues at the barricade, and it is the justness of their cause which brings them out there in the streets: the defense of their homes against demolition, putting a stop to destructive mining, pull-out of soldiers from communities, the release of long held-up drought relief.
Bulatlat lists some of the recent barricades reported by alternative media under the Aquino administration. Some led to successful negotiations, but many ended up with the protesters harassed and charged with trumped-up cases, or worse, killed.
Still, their grievances would have only been ignored had the people not stood their ground and resorted to bold measures. Under a negligent government, legitimate demands will continue to bring people out of their homes and into the danger zone that is the barricade.
Progressive indigenous peoples’ groups blamed the Aquino administration for its failure to give support to the drought-stricken farmers of Cotabato province, whose barricade demanding rice subsidy was brutally dispersed on April 1.
The Cordillera indigenous peasant group, Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako), said they know well how farmers suffer from hunger during drought, as they lose crops, animals and other sources of income.
“Instead of providing the long neglected support to the peasantry which composed the majority and who till the land to ensure food, this regime just did the opposite,” says Juan Dammay, Apit Tako chairman. Apit Tako is the regional chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in Cordillera.
Farmers are set to file criminal, administrative and civil charges against those involved in the April 1 violent dispersal in Kidapawan City.
Ephraim Cortez, assistant secretary general for legal services of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a member of the fact-finding mission, told Bulatlat in a phone interview that local officials and police personnel violated the rights of the farmers who barricaded the highway for three days.
Murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder charges will be filed against elements of the Special Action Forces (SAF), and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) who fired upon the protesters. The fact-finding mission led by Karapatan confirmed the death of farmer Darwin Sulang and Enrico Fabligar, a welder who happened to be at the site during the violent dispersal.
An initial report of the national fact-finding mission on the April 1 Kidapawan massacre revealed that the police had “maneuvered” and “destroyed” the evidence in the crime scene.
Human rights group Karapatan said the Philippine National Police had cleared the crime scene “through burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters during and after the dispersal; and preventing paralegals and quick reaction teams from leaving the Spottswood compound to gather important details and documentation on the incident and provide emergency support to the victims and their families.”
For months, Arlene Amar and her three children have been surviving on cassava and banana. There are days when they eat only once.
Amar said all the corn she planted in December died in February due to extreme drought. She had no other source of income.
“My children are crying because of hunger and poverty,” Amar told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
Her fellow farmers have been suffering, too. They received no help from any government agency. “We decided to go to Kidapawan City to demand immediate relief. We only want to feed our children,” she said.
Showbiz personalities are among the many donors sending in rice to protesting drought-hit farmers in Kidapawan City, an alternative media group reported.
Kilab Multimedia posted on its Facebook page today, April 5, about the arrival of at least 420 sacks of donated rice at the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan, where at least 3,000 farmers are seeking sanctuary.
The donations came from actors Angel Locsin, Daniel Padilla, Mariel Rodriguez, host Bianca Gonzalez-Intalan, and directors Perci Intalan and Jun Robles.
Robin Padilla also added another 50 sacks of rice. On April 2, Saturday, the actor flew in to Kidapawan to console the protesting farmers who survived the bloody dispersal. He then bought 200 sacks of rice and donated it to farmers.
Progressives criticized what seems to be an undeclared martial law in Kidapawan City as human rights violations continue to escalate after the infamous massacre of three protesting farmers there.
“Illegal detention, unabated harassments, violation of farmers’ rights to food, and psywar has become a norm. It’s already martial law in Kidapawan,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Rafael Mariano said.
As of this writing, farmers who are seeking refuge at the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan are being cordoned by the police. Meanwhile, farmers from Makilala town who came to get their share of the sacks of rice that were donated by private individuals were kept by the police from entering the church compound.
Three farmers were confirmed dead as state security forces opened fire at thousands of farmers at around 10 a.m., April 1 in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.
Rotello Daelto, Victor Lumandang and Enrico Pabrica were killed, according to Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis party list first nominee who has been in Kidapawan. At least 37 were wounded and 87 were reported missing.
Since March 30, nearly 6,000 farmers hit by drought barricaded the streets of Kidapawan City to demand immediate relief from the local government. In particular, they were asking for 5,000 sacks of rice from the local government.
Government forces opened fire on protesting farmers, killing at least one and injuring some 30 at 11 a.m. today, April 1 in Kidapawan City in Cotabato province, a farmers group said.
In a statement, the Asian Peasant Coalition said the three-day barricade of farmers were violently dispersed by the combined forces of the North Cotabato police and soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Bulatlat is still verifying the name of the protester who died.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said in a Facebook post that among those injured is Sheena Duazo of Bayan-Southern Mindanao.
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