PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd kept mum as public condemnation grew over the violent on dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City Friday.
A palace official called for sobriety as criticisms were heaped on the Aquino Administration over the incident that left three farmers dead.
Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd urged the public not to “rush into judgment” pending the investigation of the Kidapawan incident.
“There is no reason why a tragedy must be compounded by hotheaded statements or rushing to judgment. It will not help anyone,” Quezon said in a radio interview.
“Lives have been lost and we owe it to ourselves as a society and to the farmers themselves and people in the affected areas to find out what exactly happened and why it did lead to this,” he added.
Asked if the President will issue a statement on the incident, Quezon said the Chief Executive will likely speak only after he gets the investigation findings.
“What he has never done is rush to judgment and to speak imprudently, particularly in an instance when lives are lost. I do believe the president will refrain from making any statements until he has fully studied the matter and is given and is satisfied with all the answers that he has received as a result of demanding an impartial and thorough investigation,” he added.
The Palace official said the President has always been firm on the need to exercise maximum tolerance to maintain discipline among the ranks of the police.
“He is mindful that there can be provocations made precisely because of that if there is a need to think smart and act accordingly. He has never been one to back down from demanding and insisting and requiring a thorough, impartial investigation and let the chips fall where they may as a result of that,” Quezon said.
Quezon said there will be an “impartial and thorough investigation.”
“ There is no reason why people must die in order to be asking for assistance from their own government,” he added.
Statements of condemnation continued to pour Saturday, with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) blaming the Aquino Administration for the tragedy.
“What happened in Kidapawan underlines the Administration’s insensitivity and lack of compassion. The carnage is a result of government’s failure to seriously address poverty and hunger… but what is more revealing is that the bloody events that happened years ago in Mendiola, Hacienda Luisita and now Kidapawan highlight how prominent landowners in government treat farmers and farmworkers,” UNA spokesman Mon Ilagan said.
“Malacanang remains in denial over the crisis that beset our farmers in Mindanao. They failed to address the reality the poor farmers of Mindanao are facing on a daily basis. Tanging calamity assistance lamang ang hinihingi nila sa gitna ng ilang buwang tagtuyot at kawalan ng makain—pero bala ang isinagot ng gobyerno [Calamity assistance is all that they ask for, to cope with months of drought and lack of food—but the government has responded with bullets],” he noted.
Ilagan said that it is ironic that thousands of sacks of rice rot inside warehouses every year, but the government cannot spare 15,000 sacks of rice to farmers and lumads (indigenous peoples) seeking food assistance.
“Ang isang lider na bala ang isanasagot sa kumakalam na sikmura ng ating mga kababayan ay walang karapatang mamuno. Dapat walang politika sa kumakalam na sikmura [A leader who responds to the hunger of our people with bullets has no right to rule. Politics should not intrude into responding to the hunger (of our citizens)],” he added.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said the incident could have been avoided had the government acted more decisively in solving the problems of drought-hit farmers.
“The tragedy should serve as a big lesson to the government to give priority to the agricultural sector,” he said. “The government has a big responsibility. Instead of helping them (farmers) you are hurting them. That’s a big mistake.”
“They are not asking for money. They are asking for food so they would survive but instead they were given bullets,” the senator said.
“The government should think of ways to help our farmers. We should give them the help to make them productive. It is our duty to provide them with good lives.”
Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also on Saturday vowed to send humanitarian aid to thousands of farmers in Kidapawan City.
In a statement, Duterte said that helping the hungry farmers “is part of the city government of Davao’s social commitment.”
“I was willing to go there, not for anything else, but to ask if I can help on the humanitarian side of the problem — that is to give the farmers food assistance,” he said.
He said he will ask the Davao City Council to allow him to use the city’s calamity fund to send food aid to the affected farmers.
“We will assist them just to help them tide over the crisis,” Duterte added.
Duterte’s supporters are pooling resources to raise 15,000 sacks of rice for North Cotabato farmers.
Peter Laviña, the mayor’s spokesman, said supporters have responded after volunteer members of the Duterte Media Group started a donation drive for the farmers, who are suffering from the effects of El Niño.
“They need our help now that the government is not responding, and even playing deaf and blind to their sorry situation after shooting at them,” Laviña said.
Liberal Party (LP) Vice Presidential candidate Leni Robredo called for the suspension of police officials as well as tthe policemen who opened fire on the farmers.
“It would be better if the top police officials of the province, especially those who spearheaded the dispersal, should be relieved of their posts so they cannot influence the investigation,” Robredo said.
She and LP presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd called for a thorough investigation of the bloody dispersal of farmers, stressing that those involved in the death of farmers must be held accountable.
“Why did it have to happen? Why the killings? Why the shootout? These should not have happened. We already have a lot of our fellow Filipinos in dire straits because of the drought,” Robredo said.
“We call on the authorities to come up with an immediate solution because while the perpetrators of the crime go unpunished, the farmers’ sorrow will linger. The national government should intervene and provide the necessary assistance to the farmers and their families who have lost their livelihood due to the drought in the province,” she added.
Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao condoled with the families of the victims of the Kidapawan violence.
Pacquiao, who is fighting Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas next Sunday, described the bloody encounter as highly unnecessary and called for swift dispensation of justice and fair probe.
“Lubos akong nakikiramay sa pamilya ng biktima. Hindi na sana tayo umabot sa ganitong sitwasyon kung naihatid man lamang ng gobyerno ang tulong at serbisyong hinihingi ng ating mga magsasaka na apektado ang ikinabubuhay dahil sa lumalalang tagtuyot dulot ng El Nino (I deeply extend my condolences with the families of the victims. It could not have reached that point had the government provided the aid that the farmers needed as a result of the El Niño),” Pacquiao, who is running for the Senate, said.
WITH JAIME PILAPIL