“It is a big insult and injustice for the starving farmers that Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza remains in power.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A women’s group said the governor of Cotabato must be held accountable after a ranking police officer revealed in a senate hearing yesterday, April 20, that she was the one who ordered the dispersal of protesting drought-hit farmers in Kidapawan City early this month.
In a statement, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus called on the Department of Interior and Local Government to immediately suspend, if not remove, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza from office. De Jesus said Mendoza is accountable for the bloody dispersal and “her criminal neglect of farmers’ demands for calamity aid and subsidies amid a long drawn drought.”
Police Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum, who was relieved after the incident, revealed in the senate hearing yesterday that it was Mendoza who ordered the dispersal, which left two killed. Both victims sustained fatal gunshot wounds, according to the independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun.
“It is a big insult and injustice for the starving farmers that Mendoza remains in power,” De Jesus said.
In her media interviews, Mendoza claimed full responsibility for how the dispersal turned out. But she was also quick to pin the blame on members of progressive groups who she said are not from Cotabato and had only egged on farmers to join the rally.
Apart from the two killed, many others were injured and unlawfully detained and charged with direct assault.
De Jesus also expressed hopes that the senate investigations will lead towards justice for the protesting farmers and not for whitewashing the incident.
During the senate hearing yesterday, the Philippine National Police presented a rebel returnee named Charlie Pasco, who claimed that slain Darwin Sulang was armed during the protest and was, as well, a member of the New People’s Army.
“So a dead man who can tell no tales was practically shooting at his fellow famished farmers. Or maybe at himself. What fantastic imagination,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia said, who referred to the likes of Pasco as “congenital liars” and a “certified professional paid witnesses.”
Olalia said Pasco “surrendered” twice – in 2014 and last March 29, just before the bloody Kidapawan dispersal – and was “paid handsomely for it.”
In his blog, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pasco’s testimony was intended to shift blame to the protesters and justify “why the police had to use deadly force against them.”
Reyes added that Pasco has no credibility as a witness “because he is a paid agent of the AFP.”
“He already confessed under oath that he was there at the Spottswood Methodist church to infiltrate the rally, upon orders by his handlers from the AFP,” he said.
Members of the NUPL, both lawyers and law students, will prepare separate charges for perjury, obstruction of justice and possibly incriminatory machinations against Pasco, whom Olalia referred to as a “coached, second-rate, trying hard copycat clown.”
Olalia said, “This guy who cannot wipe his smirk on his face is a professed infiltrator within the ranks of the peaceful, legitimate farmer rallyists. If he thinks he will laugh again all the way to the bank together with his supposed handlers at the PNP and the 39th IB of the Philippine Army, he’s got something else coming.”
Sulang’s father Ebao had already refuted Pasco’s claims against his son. As a former member of CAFGU himself, Ebao said Pasco is lying. He said he taught Darwin how to farm, not hold guns.