CHR report on Kidapawan massacre

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FINALLY, the Commission on Human Rights has released its report, after scrutinizing the evidence and interviewing witnesses for two months on the Kidapawan Massacre, on Friday morning, March 27. The report confirms what we said in our editorial on April 2—”Expectedly, Aquino’s DILG and PNP blame farmer victims”—in which we quoted Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares blaming the PNP, the DILG and local Kidapawan City officials for the massacre of farmers seeking the release of rice already allotted for their hungry families suffering from the El Niño-caused drought.

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Our P1 story in yesterday’s issue—”CHR blames govt for Kidapawan tragedy”—reports that the Commission blames provincial and local officials as well as rally organizers for the North Cotabato-Kidapawan City massacre last April 1 that left two protesters dead and 179 farmers and police officers injured.

CHR’s 46-page report details the series of events that led to the violent dispersal of at least 3,000 protesters at the Kidapawan-Davao Highway, in Kidapawan City, Cotabato.

The report notes that the protest “was prompted by the farmers’ demand for rice from the government, their harvest having been affected by the drought caused by El Niño, and the failure on the part of the Cotabato provincial government to ‘release and deliver food supplies to the farmer-protesters despite the availability of resources.’ “

The CHR cites the failure of the provincial government to protect and promote the right to food and freedom from hunger of the farmers as the root cause of the protest action.

The report says, “State agents, including, but not limited to, government officials…” failed to fulfill their duties to uphold “the right to adequate food of the farmer-protesters and their families; to provide them with adequate and sufficient protection from hunger; and to recognize their freedom from hunger in times of disaster or calamity.”

However, we also see that the CHR has also found evidence that a number of the protesters were “induced to join the protest action through deceit by the organizers and ‘unknown persons.’ ”

The report identifies the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) as among the principal organizers of the protest rally that blocked the main highway for three days.

CHR says organizers of the rally must be held accountable for “abuse of the civil and political rights of others,” to wit: “The protest organizers or leaders of the rally, namely: Mr. Pedro Arnado, Regional Chair, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Mr. Jerry Alborme, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Provincial Chairperson-Cotabato; Miss Norma Capuyan, Chairperson of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa-Cotabato; and other entities and/or persons involved in organizing the rally, as appropriate, must be held accountable with regard to the abuse of the civil and political rights of others under pertinent provisions of Philippine laws and international human rights instruments.”

CHR also says violence was committed not only by the police dispersal team. It condemned “the violent act of protesters that left two police officers battling for their lives.” Video footage shows protesters attacking two fallen policemen, repeatedly hitting them with wooden clubs.

The CHR calls for the investigation of everybody who committed violent acts during the incident. But it does find that excessive force was used by the PNP against the protesters, and that “the PNP fired the first [gun]shot.” It also urged the investigation of those responsible for the “arrest and detention of farmer-protesters (which were) attended by excessive and unjustified force…”

CHR correctly also criticizes the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Cotabato, particularly the inquest prosecutors, for failing to properly exercise their mandate in determining probable cause in the arrest of the 81 farmers by the police in the aftermath of the protest.

Among those detained were pregnant women and aged men and women. And the CHR report says: “Had the inquest prosecutors been more discerning, they [w]ould have easily established the unlikelihood of pregnant women and senior citizens assaulting police officers.”

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