An opposition lawmaker on Sunday challenged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to visit the farmers in Kidapawan City and see the “deep-running effects of El Niño on the livelihood of Mindanao farmers.”
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon made the pitch in connection with the dispersal of farmers on Friday that left three farmers dead.
“President Aquino and [Department of Agriculture] Secretary [Proceso] Alcala, go down from your ivory tower and see for yourselves how government inaction and the criminal negligence of your administration have exacerbated the plight of our poor and hungry farmers. Instead of pinning the blame on progressive groups who have come to support them, the President himself must come here and see his people’s unending suffering,” Ridon said.
“Napakawalang-kwenta ng gobyernong ito. Ang inaatupag ay paglilinis ng pangalan nila, pagtakas sa accountability. Inuna pang parangalan ang mga pulis na siyang nanakit sa mga magsasaka, kaysa tuluyan nang ipamahagi ang bigas at ayuda na hiling ng mga nagproprotesta [This government is so useless. It is busy clearing names, evading accountability. It gave honors first to the police who hurt the farmers, instead of distributing the rice and help that the protesters were demanding from the government],” he noted.
As early as February last year, the Department of Agriculture already discovered that the damage from El Niño had reached P5.2 billion.
The P5.2 billion worth of damage destroyed an estimated 237,000 hectares of agriculture areas, affecting the livelihood of 121,490 farmers.
Six provinces in Mindanao have reportedly declared a state of calamity because of El Niño.
Independent research group Ibon Foundation blamed Alcala for not ensuring sufficient irrigation despite the drought’s periodic onslaught.
Ridon, who flew to Kidapawan City along with fellow lawyer Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares to provide legal assistance to the farmers, also hit Aquino for his silence amid the outrage over the dispersal.
“We particularly note President Aquino’s deafening silence in the aftermath of the Kidapawan massacre. His Cabinet members and Palace spin doctors are in a rush to cover up the incident, yet the President has not uttered a single word himself days after the incident, not even words to commiserate with the victims,” the lawmaker said.
“Nasaan ang Pangulo? Ayan, headline na naman sa mga dyaryo ang pangangampanya niya para kay Mar [Manuel Roxas 2nd]. Pero ni ha, ni ho, walang nasabi o ginawa para sa mga biktima ng Kidapawan open-firing. Ganyang-ganyan ang Pangulo noong Mamasapano at iba pang trahedyang nagdaan sa ilalim ng kanyang pamumuno: Laging missing in action, [Where is the President? He is busy campaigning, but has remained mum on Kidapawan, just like in Mamasapano and the other tragedies during his term]” he added.
Roxas is the administration’s presidential candidate in the May 2016 elections.
Ridon urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately pull out their men who are allegedly surrounding the Methodist church compound in Kidapawan and let those seeking food aid be given a share of donations from various support groups and private individuals.
“Our people are perishing from hunger. Our countrymen have started contributing what they can to fill in the void left by government incompetence. And how does our police force respond? With brute force,” he said.
The lawmaker reiterated his call for a House inquiry into the Kidapawan incident.
“We cannot have the PNP to whitewash the massacre by doing its own investigation of its personnel. We are calling on our colleagues in Congress to convene an emergency independent fact-finding mission to ascertain facts on what really transpired,” Ridon said.