Walang paglagyan ang aking galit. At lungkot. At galit.
To my mind, there is no reason for farmers to have been killed on April 1. No reason for farmers to have been gunned down. No reason for the violent dispersal. Not today, not on any day.
On radio, some military official said soon after the news broke about the violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan: the rallyists started it. They are not real farmers. They are professional rallyists. They have done this before. They threw rocks at policemen, he said. And the police are the ones who are injured.
That the spin didn’t surprise me is telling of what we’ve had to deal with the past six years with matuwid-na-daan.
The farmers had been barricading the main highway of Kidapawan since 5:30am Wednesday, March 30. Their demand was simple: “release the 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government’s calamity fund intended for the farmers affected by El Niño.” (DavaoToday, March 31) They also demanded for a dialogue with the local government, at the barricades, in front of all the farmers.
At 8:30 pm that same day, they were told that Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza wanted to speak to the three leaders of the picketline, at the city hall. The farmers refused. They were 6,000–strong; three people hearing what the governor had to say just wouldn’t be fair. But the farmers were told by Provincial PNP Director Superintendent Alexander Tagum that “Gov. Mendoza will not show up at the barricade for she is afraid to be booed by the protesters.” (DavaoToday, March 31)
The governor wouldn’t have had reason to be afraid, if she just agreed to release the 15,000 sacks of rice to the farmers. This is 15,000 sacks of rice already approved for distribution by the LGU.
And because Malacañang has been asking that people be balanced in their views, I searched for any sense at all of why this governor refused to release this rice to the farmers and the Lumad there. In one Manila Standard article, it was reported that the reason why the Governor refused to release the rice subsidy is because it wanted to do so through a food-for-work program with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). (April 1)
Apparently, these farmers from the towns of Makilala, Mlang, Tulunan, Magpet, Roxas, Antipas, Arakan and Kidapawan City (Manila Standard, April 1), farmers who had already suffered months of drought, farmers whose families must be hungry, farmers who have lost crops and livelihood, and are living through a calamity, they must first work to get their food.
Matuwid-na-Daan’s trapo moves
This is again no surprise given the fact of matuwid-na-daan. This is a government that decided to refuse to give relief goods to hungry and thirsty survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, because they wanted these people who had walked for miles to be checked off a voters’ list in their barangays. These were survivors of the worst typhoon to make landfall, and Mar Roxas made them go back to wherever it was they came from, just to get food. Yes, Roxas was in Tacloban in the midst of Typhoon Haiyan, but this was his policy of relief distribution. He might as well not have been there.
This same kind of belief – that farmers have to work for rice after suffering through drought since late last year – it is classic matuwid-na-daan. And the spin of government now – saying these were not all farmers, saying that the farmers were misled by militants to go on this rally, saying that there needs to be assurance before distribution of subsidy that these are the farmers in need – we’ve heard all of that before, too.
Another classic matuwid-na-daan move? Pretension. If I were the farmers, I would’ve been so angry, not just because I was going hungry by the day, but because Gov. Mendoza had the gall, just two weeks ago, to take “pride in the province surviving the drought.”
Two weeks ago, the governor declared: “Ako ay naniniwalang ito ay breakthrough year ng ating lalawigan. Sa pangkalahatan, naging maagap tayo sa pagtugon sa hamon ng kawalan ng katiyakan – the challenge of uncertainty. After being hit, we bounced back.” She promised farmers that “despite the continuous dry spell due to El Niño, farmers and fishermen will still harvest and have some food on their tables.” (SunstarDavao, March 15)
A week after, on March 21, Agriculture Secretary Proseso Alcala assured farmers that “the government is addressing their needs to cushion the impact of drought.” Alcala also said that the government “had anticipated this drought and mitigating measures have been in place, ‘pag kulang pa, kikilos ang pamahalaan at di kayo pababayaan.” (Manila Bulletin, March 21)
El Niño was declared to have started in August of last year. Eight months after, the Agriculture Secretary says if efforts are still lacking, they will do something. Eight months after.
Poverty and denial
Any person brought to the point of hunger, any person whose family is going hungry, would take to the streets. Because what better way to prove the governor wrong, to prove spin wrong, to point out the lies that government feeds the public and media (that does not ask questions), then to go out to the streets in a show of formidable force?
This is after all the sector that matuwid-na-daan is saying it has lifted up from poverty. These are the poor, whose lives have supposedly been changed by government programs like 4Ps and Bottom-Up-Budgeting (BUB). These are the poor who we are made to believe remain poor, because of corruption.
But it is matuwid-na-daan’s mantra that also teaches us that corruption is not all. In fact, it might be the least of our problems. Because they have told us time and again, corruption is not part of what went wrong in the relief operations and rebuilding efforts in Haiyan-stricken provinces; and they will tell us with this one, that corruption has nothing to do with the case of these farmers.
And yet farmer and Lumad communities are suffering through a drought, and are not getting enough assistance from government. They are suffering from hunger, despite matuwid-na-daan’s billions in savings.
And they were killed and wounded on April 1, by the police who are supposed to protect them. They were gunned down so that they could be dispersed. We’re told: but the rallyists threw the rocks first!
So: kapag binato ka ng bato, barilin mo?
That might not be corrupt. But it sure is evil.