President Benigno Aquino 3rd finally broke his silence on the violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City, admitting that he was unaware of the events that transpired on April 1.
In his speech during an administration campaign rally in Makati City Friday night, Aquino said he was not immediately informed about the tragedy. He said he learned of the incident in the afternoon of April 1.
Aquino was in Cavite for the turnover of a newly-built school building and a Liberal Party campaign rally.
“Pauwi kami pabalik ng Maynila, nabanggit ni DILG Secretary Mel Sarmiento na kinabukasan tutungo siya sa Kidapawan at ako naman po’y nagtanong: anong gagawin mo sa Kidapawan? [We were on our way back to Manila, DILG Secretary Mel Sarmieno mentioned that he is going to Kidapawan and I asked: what will you do in Kidapawan?],” Aquino said.
“Sa totoo lang po, doon ko lang narinig sa unang pagkakataon na mayroon palang nangharang ng highway sa Kidapawan at nagkaroon ng isang violent dispersal [In truth, that was the first time I heard that some people have blocked the highway in Kidapawan and that a violent dispersal occurred],” he added.
The President explained that he wanted to resolve the issues surrounding the Kidapawan incident and immediately sought a meeting with concerned officials on the weekend immediately following April 1.
However, that meeting was pushed back to Monday, April 4, since officials were not yet ready to give their briefing.
Three farmers were killed during the clashes and about 200 people were injured.
The protesters, mostly farmers, demanded relief and subsidy for communities that are suffering the brunt of a persisting dry spell in North Cotabato.
Responding to the clamor to address the plight of farmers in drought-hit provinces, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has released some P1.2 billion in aid almost a week after the Kidapawan incident.
In a statement, the DSWD field office in Region XII said that it has released food packs, hygiene kits, and funds to implement the cash-for-work program under the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CCAM) and quick response funds of the department, amounting to P1.2 billion.
The DSWD noted that aid package was not only released to the local government units (LGU) in some parts of Mindanao, but also to the LGUs in Metro Manila, Regions I, II, III, IV-A, IV-B, VI, VII, X, XI, XII, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that have been affected by the El Nino phenomenon.
In the case of North Cotabato, the DSWD said its field office Regional Director Bai ZorahaydaTaha has met with Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista “to identify areas of collaboration.”
Taha, Mendoza, and Evangelista agreed to extend food assistance to 150,000 families in the province by releasing 15,000 bags of rice from the National Food Authority.
Each family will receive five kilos of rice for the month of April, according to the department.