By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A Kidapawan court granted the reduction of bail of arrested drought-hit farmers by at least half in a hearing today, April 13.
Farmers were initially asked to post a P12,000 bail for the direct assault charges filed against them by the police.
“The bail will be posted as soon as possible. We are prioritizing the elderly and the pregnant women,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) assistant secretary general for legal services Ephraim Cortez told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
The NUPL is among the composite of lawyers providing legal services to the Kidapawan farmers.
Subject to the court’s discretion, Cortez said the bail could be further reduced if the detained farmers could produce necessary documents such as a certificate of indigency. He said farmers and their supporters are already preparing these today.
At least two were killed and dozens were injured when police opened fire at the farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City last April 1. The drought-hit farmers were demanding the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as part of government subsidy. Their crops were all dried up and destroyed after months of dry-spell in the region.
Elderly and pregnant women
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said at least 85 persons, who are mostly farmers from various municipalities in North Cotabato, were arrested and detained at the Kidapawan Gym and Kidapawan Convention Center.
She said “many were deceived – they were told that they can go to the Gym and Convention Center so they can eat spaghetti and take the ride home to their communities” after the bloody dispersal of farmers.
Four minors were already released last April 5.
The pregnant women detainees are: Arlene Candiban, 25, six months pregnant, Eliza Candiban, 22, five months pregnant, and Rolinda Paonil, 34, two months pregnant. The elderly farmers include: Dionisio Alagos, 60, Gerardo Pequero, 66, Crisanto Carlum, 72, Jovita Debalid, 68, Lolita Porras, 65, and Valentina Berden, 78.
Cortez said detained farmers were moved to the provincial and city jail after a commitment order was issued yesterday.
Help Kidapawan farmers
Here in Manila, various groups held a protest outside the Department of Justice to demand the release of farmers.
“The detention of the Kidapawan farmers is totally dreadful not only because we know that they are in fact the victims but also because we are once again made to witness how impunity in the country holds sway, how perpetrators of heinous human rights violations, of high treason, of graft and corruption and plunder are all left unpunished; now even Napoles, we are told, had been allowed to post bail,” Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said.
Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, accused for masterminding the pork barrel scam, has been granted bail today. While Napoles cannot avail of temporary freedom as she was earlier sentenced to reclusion perpetua for the illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus said, “this is a very clear demonstration of how corrupt this country’s justice system is.”
De Jesus joined various groups in calling for the release of Kidapawan farmers.
“It is callous and heartless of this government to first deny El Nino-hit farmers of assistance and to later deny them of their freedom,” she said.
Palabay said concerned groups and individuals may donate and help Kidapawan farmers to post bail through Solidarity Action Group for indigenous Peoples and Peasants Network. Below is the bank account detail:
Savings account number 010510011128