By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – 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.”
The violent police dispersal of protesting drought-hit farmers in Kidapawan City last April 1 left at least two dead and dozens injured. There also at least 71 farmers still detained. Both the local government and the police had tried to pin the blame on the supposed “Leftists” who “organized” the rally.
The 27-member of national fact finding team is composed of doctors, lawyers, paralegals and counselors. They arrived last Monday, April 4, to document and investigate the violent dispersal and the subsequent human rights violations committed against the protesting farmers.
Jerome Aba of Suara Bangsamoro and survivor of the Kidapawan carnage, said in a statement that the “virtual martial law” in the province has been keeping them from reaching out to the victims.
“Help us release illegally-arrested farmers who are detained, help us talk to the wounded who are confined in hospitals, help us find those who are still missing,” Aba said.
Initial findings said at least 40 people that sustained gunshot wounds. These include farmers Ronald “Allan” Diampas, who was shot at his mouth, Victor Lumundang, who sustained gunshot wound in his neck, and Mark Anthony Delgado, whom the military and the police tagged as New People’s Army commander, also suffered gunshot wounds on his left leg and was beaten heavily by the police.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and its affiliate Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao are set to file cases against those who ordered the violent dispersal.
Farmers signaled an initial victory as police forces pulled out from the Church compound at 4:35 p.m. yesterday, April 5.
Since the violent dispersal, members of progressive groups and partylists have assailed what seemed an undeclared martial law in the area. Protesting farmers who have sought sanctuary at the Spottswood United Methodist Church, the Bishop’s residence in the region, have been cordoned by the police.
“This is a victory for us farmers, even if some of our ranks have been murdered or have been arrested,” said Gerry Alborme of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in a Kilab Multimedia report.
Alborme said the police had violated the law when it shot the protesting farmers.
“We have lost trust in them,” he added.
Soldiers also encamped at the back of the Church compound. Youth group Anakbayan said in an earlier statement that their members saw at least two tanks roving around the compound.
Yesterday, April 5, Makilala town farmers were finally allowed to enter the Church compound, three days since they arrived to show support to the Kidapawan massacre victims. Police allowed the farmers in after a negotiation with the national fact-finding team.
Donations of rice have been pouring in from showbiz personalities and concerned private individuals. Another 400 sacks of rice from Kilusang Mayo Uno-National Office arrived today at the Methodist Compound, according to Kilab Multimedia.