LEADERS of the Catholic Church have lambasted the Aquino Administration for its callousness, saying it responded with cruelty, not mercy, to thousands of farmers who took to the streets of Kidapawan City to appeal for food aid.
Three farmers died and scores were injured when protesting farmers and policemen clashed in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato last April 1.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the Aquino administration is answerable for the death of the farmers.
“This is not the way to react to the grievances of the farmers that the government was not able to address in the first place,” Pabillo added.
He noted that more than 80 farmers were still unaccounted for or missing days after the violent dispersal.
“This is not mercy but cruelty. They are blamed in the name of national security and are accused to be led by communists,’ the bishop said.
“I join my voice in protesting the shooting and the violent dispersal of the protesting farmers in Kidapawan,” he added.
The government, according to Pabillo, knew beforehand that Mindanao and other parts of the country will be hit by El Niño but did not nothing to assist the affected farmers.
“The El Nino is not like a typhoon that can make the government unprepared. It had already been forecast two years ago. It has hit the country since September last year. The government has not done anything to address this problem. We had been calling on the government for action for months already,” the prelate said.
He pointed out that some areas in Mindanao were declared under a state of calamity but the national and local governments did nothing to help alleviate the plight of farmers.
“Now that they demanded by mass action that their pleas should be heard, they were asking for rice and basic necessities for their farms, they were sent the police and these rained on them beatings and bullets,” Pabillo said.
“This speaks about the neglect of the Aquino administration of the plight of the poor, the farmers and the lumad [indigenous people]. He is calloused to those who suffer,” Pabillo pointed out.
Former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz also on Thursday said the Kidapawan incident was a display of government’s insensitivity and lack of respect for the dignity and rights of hungry farmers.
Cruz likened the bloody Kidapawan dispersal to the Mendiola Massacre which happened during the incumbency of then-President Corazon Aquino, President Aquino’s mother, almost 30 years ago.
“The Mendiola Massacre was the handiwork of landlords and the president at that time was his mother. As if there was no God,” the archbishop said in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas.
“A hungry stomach needs food. But instead of providing them rice, they were shot. It’s shameful,” he added.
Cruz expressed belief that ongoing investigations of the violent dispersal will go nowhere.
Fr. Carlito Garcia, administrator of the Diocese of Kidapawan, said the incident could have been averted had concerned authorities acted with dispatch.
“This is supposed to be just a matter of decision-making by competent authorities,” he noted. “There’s a calamity fund, but it seems that the people are not benefiting from it.”
Five kilos of rice
As the Senate opened its inquiry into the Kidapawan tragedy, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs) in Region 12 strengthened their efforts to speed up delivery of assistance to affected families.
DSWD-Field Office 12 Regional Director Bai Zorahayda Taha met on Thursday with North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista to identify areas of collaboration.
They agreed that 150,000 families in the province will each be given five kilos of rice this month.
Meanwhile, the Field Office will also provide burial assistance of P5,000 each to the families of the farmers who died, and P3,000 to the families of farmers injured in the clash.
With IZA IGLESIAS