Probe Kidapawan dispersal,UN asked

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LOCAL human rights group Karapatan has written the United Nations Human Rights Council to call attention to the killing, illegal arrest and detention and other rights abuses against protesting farmers in Kidapawan City on April 1 that the group blamed on the police.

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The group asked for an investigation on the rights abuses against the farmers through Maina Kai, special rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders; and Seong-Phil Hong, chairman-rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“We believe that the Philippine state security forces, with the approval of, if not direct orders from top civilian authorities, deliberately and murderously attacked the protesters, grossly violating the farmers’ civil and political rights protected by the Philippine Constitution, law and various international covenants and instruments to which the Philippine government is a signatory,” Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general, said in a statement on Monday.

Karapatan submitted a full report of the National Fact-Finding and Humanitarian Mission (NFHM) conducted by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bayan on April 4-6, 2016 in Kidapawan.

The report serves as a reference to the complaint filed.

“It is important that the international community is made aware of these gross human rights violations against the farmers, with all the visible signs of cover-up on the accountability of the Aquino government and the Philippine National Police [PNP],” Palabay said.

The NFHM cited various “maneuvers” by the PNP and the local government to destroy evidence by clearing the crime scene through the use of bulldozers and water cannons, burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters during and after the dispersal and preventing paralegals and quick reaction teams from leaving the Spotswood Methodist Center to gather important details and documentation on the incident and provide emergency support to the victims and their families.

Karapatan said it had received initial reports that the family of slain Manobo farmer Darwin Sulang had been threatened and harassed by the provincial government, the police and the military.

Ebao Sulang, father of Darwin, recounted that on April 6, North Cotabato provincial board member Kelly Antao with Lito Palma of the Office of Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza went to the house of the Sulang family to convince the family not to file criminal charges against the governor and the police and offered P100,000.

The family, however, refused the offer.

On April 12, the Sulang family was disturbed by two unknown men walking around their house until 3 a.m., fearing the men were armed.

The following day, relatives of the Sulang family received news that members of the Philippine Army are looking for Ebao Sulang.

The whole family immediately evacuated and sought refuge with Church and human rights groups.

“This is clearly part of the government’s underhanded moves to dissuade the family from pursuing counter-charges,” Palabay said.

She added that while the 82 illegally arrested and detained farmers have all been released on bail, as of April 16, trumped-up charges of direct assault and frustrated homicide are yet to be dismissed.

“The arrest and detention of the farmers–of those who were shot, pulled from the protesters’ ranks and tortured by the police, to the elderly and pregnant women farmers, to the mere bystanders–show the inhumanity and callousness of the Aquino government institutions on the plight of the farmers,” Palabay said.

Among the recommended actions stated in the NFHM report is the indictment and prosecution of all police operatives on the ground responsible for the killings, frustrated killings, illegal arrest and detention and other criminal acts committed during and after the dispersal.

Karapatan also recommended investigation and prosecution of the President, military and police generals, as well as officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Agriculture, for their participation and complicity in the violent dispersal of the farmers, the various human rights violation committed as a result thereof and other violations committed thereafter.

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