WE commend Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, who is a senatorial candidate, for immediately flying to Mindanao to assist farmer protestors taking refuge in a Methodist church in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, and to offer their legal assistance to these farmers and to those detained by the PNP at a gym in Kidapawan.
As expected, the President B.S. Aquino’s people in the Philippine National Police and the Cabinet department in charge of it, the Department of Interior and Local Government, have blamed the victims for the Kidapawan Massacre. On Friday morning hungry protesting farmers and their families were mowed down by PNP units.
Congressman Ridon accused the PNP and DILG on Saturday for “deliberately twisting facts” and pinning the blame for the bloody massacre of farmers yesterday on the protesters.
He spoke in the United Methodist Church compound in Kidapawan City, where more than 5,000 farmer protesters sought refuge following the shooting of the farmers and their wives and children who were begging for aid–food and cash assistance. The party-list congressman said the PNP and DILG are clearly spinning the news to escape accountability.
Ridon cited PNP Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, who had declared that PNP crime lab findings found nitrate traces on the hands of the slain farmers.
“CPNP Marquez should be ashamed of himself. His statement lends greater insult to the deaths of farmers by insinuating that they had guns and fired shots at the police,” Ridon said.
“The crime lab results are a farce and should not be given any ounce of credibility, as we cannot expect the PNP to deliver an honest and independent finding on the conduct of their men and the incident itself.
“It should be noted that the PNP took custody of the dead bodies, and cordoned off the scene of the massacre. This has given them all the opportunity to plant all kinds of evidence on the dead, such as pistols and nitrates on fingers,” Ridon explained.
The PNP searched the Methodist church compound and found no firearms.
He urged an all-out effort to prevent the PNP from white-washing this tragedy and abuse of the farmers’ human rights. He appealed to his congressional colleagues to convene an emergency independent fact-finding mission to ascertain facts on what really transpired.
The DILG immediately gave medals to the PNP men who took part in the massacre of hungry El Niño–victimized peasants. Rep. Ridon said:
“Shame on DILG. Shame on Sec. Sarmiento [the DILG head]. Shame on the Aquino administration for prioritizing the awarding their killer personnel instead of simply giving the protesting farmers their sacks of rice.” He added that the move to award the police involved in the massacre “speaks volumes of the Aquino government’s unabashed hypocrisy.”
He and Atty. Colmenares have promised to press charges against PNP and local government officials for illegally detaining the farmers. “We have witnessed first-hand how combined elements of the police and the military continue to threaten the security and life of the crowd gathered here in Kidapawan. We in the Makabayan bloc will exhaust all means to bring the perpetrators of the massacre to justice and hold accountable everyone involved in this bloody episode,” Rep. Ridon said.
“This latest attack against the people is another bloody badge on the Aquino administration’s already bloodstained record. We should not let this pass with the perpetrators running scot-free.”
“Release the 15,000 sacks of rice”
The lawmaker also called on both the national government and the local government of North Cotabato to immediately heed the demands of the protesting farmers.
“Ano pa bang hinihintay ng gobyerno? Na mas marami pa ang mamatay? Na maulit ang massacre? Congress allotted billions of pesos for the calamity fund to serve in situations like this. Why do we need to end up in a dire situation wherein hungry farmers asking for food are instead fed bullets?”
Rep. Ridon said that the government promised immediate relief and the pledged sacks of rice to the farmers and their families. “These should be distributed immediately. What are they waiting for?”
“These thick-faced officials–lalo na ng local government ng North Cotabato [particularly the local government of North Cotabato]— should all resign. Their gross negligence of duty is the root cause of the protest and the massacre.”