Yesterday morning, in Kidapawan City, N. Cotabato, the Aquino regime once more added a page of horror to its well-established record of heartless cruelty to victims of poverty and injustice.
At about 11 a.m. Friday, the regime’s militarized PNP, directed by national and local officials, violently–and lethally– dispersed farmers and their families begging for food, demanding more serious government attention to their miseries. They had punctuated their protest by occupying a segment of the Cotabato-Davao highway at Kidapawan.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and the Kabataan Partylist Group issued statements condemning the killing of three farmers and the wounding of at least 30 and maybe even scores of victims, including children, in the PNP’s brutal dispersal of the peasants and Lumad (indigenous people).
According to UMA, “Those who were dispersed were part of the 5,000 strong contingent of farmers, agricultural workers and Lumads who barricaded the national highway of Davao-Cotabato. They were demanding immediate relief such as the release of the calamity fund and rice due to a 7-month old drought in the province.”
UMA Chairperson Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos demanded that those responsible for the carnage, especially those who ordered the shooting down of protesters, should be held criminally liable. “These include national government officials, including President Benigno S. Aquino himself, who are indifferent to the plight of the common people already suffering severely because of the drought. You do not shoot people who are merely asking immediate assistance from the government,” said Ramos.
He added that “Most of the country is under drought conditions including rubber plantations in Mindanao and sugar plantations in the whole country. Will this government murder peasants and indigenous peoples in other places when they decide to assert their rights including cultivating lands for food consumption out of necessity?” Ka Daning asked.
It should be remembered that the Philippine government’s handling of peasant problems has always been bloody and violent. “These include,” the UMA statement said, “among others, the Escalante, Mendiola, and Hacienda Luisita massacres. If this is how the present government and the next one will handle issues of peasants in the coming days and months, they should prepare for the wrath of the common people whose options are not only limited to asserting their democratic rights in the streets.”
The Kabataan Partylist and the League of Filipino students held a joint protest yesterday afternoon. The youth partylist congressman, Rep. Terry Ridon, called the violent and fatal dispersal “state-sponsored terrorism.” He said the “El Niño victims were only calling for the immediate release of the emergency fund and aid for their starving families. Ang panawagan ng mga magsasaka ay bigas, pero ang pinaulan ay bala [The farmers were asking for rice but they got a rain of bullets.”
“This latest fascist move is testament to the disdainful height of impunity, insensitivity, and callousness of the Aquino administration. Where else could one find a government that offers bullets to citizens who ask for food and immediate relief?” Ridon said.
“We also condemn the local government in Kidapawan that resorted to violence instead of heeding the farmers’ demands. We cannot emphasize enough how brazen and outrageous it is for law enforcers to take lives when all the people ask for is immediate relief amid the drought,” Ridon said.
“Let me say in no uncertain terms: shame on both the local and national governments for not only failing to respond to the urgent needs of El Niño victims but for taking lives and inflicting serious harm on the very people they vowed to serve. Blood is in their hands – and we demand justice!”
He called on “each and every Filipino to support the farmers in these trying times. Our drought-stricken farmers have been doubly hit – first by El Niño and second by government incompetence and state fascism. The farmers need everyone’s help – both in concrete terms and in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this state-sponsored act of terrorism.”
State of calamity for ARMM and Regions 9, 10, 11 urged
Even the former Aquino Cabinet’s “Secretary for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization”–one of the regime’s three Cabinet members for agriculture who have all been found deficient in performing their assigned tasks–has condemned the violent dispersal of the Kidapawan farmers.
Apart from condemning the brutality against the farmers and Lumad, former senator Francis Pangilinan, who resigned from the Aquino Cabinet last year, also asked for a swift investigation of the “incident” and an explanation from PNP leadership how it happened that crowd control protocols were violated and caused this tragedy.
He also sought immediate medical attention for the victims and the urgent release of the calamity fund that had already been allocated for Kidapawan since it was declared to be in a state of calamity some time ago.
He urges that Regions 9, 10, 11 and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) be declared to be in a state of calamity because the farmers there have been suffering from El Niño for months.