Global Day of Action | Groups demand justice for Cotabato farmers

“The impunity promoted by Aquino underscores his accountability on the Kidapawan carnage. The President is allowing farmers to starve and die of hunger. He is guilty of incompetence, criminal negligence and genocide.”

Read also: Nora Aunor, Monique Wilson demand justice for Kidapawan farmers

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Different progressive groups here in Manila marked the first week of the Kidapawan bloody dispersal, dubbed as Global Day of Action for food, land and justice, today, April 8. The groups demanded full accountability from the Aquino government and the local government of North Cotabato.

After the concelebrated mass at Quiapo church, the groups marched to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola) carrying banners that say, “Bigas hindi bala. Pagkain at hustisya para sa mga magsasaka (Rice not bullet. Food and justice for the peasants).”

Renato Reyes, Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general slammed Aquino for remaining silent on the Kidapawan bloody dispersal. He said Malacañang Palace is trying to downplay the issue as a concern only of the local government. Government makes it appear that the problem was created by the protesting farmers who blocked the highway, and belittled their starvation, government negligence, and the violation of their rights.

“This is not only a problem of the local government. This is a problem of the national government, because the Philippines – from north Luzon to Mindanao – is experiencing drought,” Reyes said.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Rafael Mariano, for his part, said: “Aquino’s silence emboldens murderers like Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza as revealed by their shameless cover-up of the truth and arrogance against farmers.”

“The impunity promoted by Aquino underscores his accountability on the Kidapawan carnage. The President is allowing farmers to starve and die of hunger. He is guilty of incompetence, criminal negligence and genocide,” Mariano added.

‘A cold, heartless government’

Reyes said the Aquino regime has again proven its heartlessness and lack of compassion to poor farmers. He said the government is quick to utilize public funds for campaign sorties, but not for the immediate relief of the starving farmers affected by El Niño.

Worse, he said, 71 protesters that were detained with trumped-up charges after the bloody dispersal last April 1. Some of the detained were senior citizens and pregnant women. He said these people are in dire poverty and are penniless to even produce the P2,000 ($43) bail for each detainee.

Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairperson who flew to Kidapawan with other youth leaders, made a pun on allegations that the detained protesters are members of the New People’s Army or NPA.

“Yes, the farmers are indeed NPA: Sila ay Nagugutom, Pinahihirapan, at Api (They are starving, abused and oppressed).”

He said the poverty of the farmers and their starving family is nothing that any haciendero government will not experience in their lifetime.

Anakpawis partylist first nominee Ariel Casilao, who had come from Kidapawan, said most of the cities and municipalities in Mindanao that were declared by the government’s weather station as heavily-hit by El Niño were also among the poorest provinces in the country.

Casilao said it is only natural that the poor citizens would go to the highest local government official to seek help so their family will survive. “But when the people came seeking help, they were accused as communists, militants or Leftists. Their calls were clear, bigas hindi bala (rice not bullets).”

The fight for justice

Jerome Aba of Suara Bangsamoro said he saw for himself how members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) opened fired at the barricade, killing at least two and injuring hundreds of farmers. He said it is not enough to only relieve North Cotabato police chief Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum, but all who were responsible for the carnage should be charged and jailed, especially Mendoza and Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista. The latter was with the police during the shooting, he said.

Reyes said no one is more responsible for the violent dispersal than the local government and the police. “The national government, meanwhile is also ultimately liable for Kidapawan because of its criminal neglect of the victims of El Niño.”

Reyes called for the release of all those who continue to be detained in Kidapawan and urged other organizations to further campaign for justice, not only of the farmers in Kidapawan but to all farmers who continue to live in dire poverty.

“While many more concerned citizens here in the country and abroad extend help to our farmers, for our part, we must ensure that the farmers, especially those who were killed will get justice. We can only attain this through our collective action,” said Reyes.

Protest actions in solidarity of the Cotabato farmers were also held in different provinces today. Filipino migrant organizations and groups will also hold solidarity actions in the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Indonesia, Cambodia, Pakistan and Palestine. ()

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