They were asking for food relief – they were given bullets instead
Originally posted here on April 6, 2016 by the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty
We are asking different organizations to kindly add their support to the farmers of Kidapawan, Philippines by adding their organization’s name as signatory to the statement. Please get in touch with PCFS on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to express our utmost condemnation on the killing of unarmed farmers asking for food relief. The people of North Cotobato are suffering from severe drought. The non-response of the government to help them survive such crisis is inhuman enough. To hoard the food relief intended for them is simply criminal. To open fire at them when they were demanding what is due them is plain evil.
Thousands of farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotobatodecided to temporarily leave their farms to protest the hoarding of the food relief by the local government and to demand the release of the calamity funds supposedly intended for those whose crops were destroyed by the El Niño phenomenon.
After four days of peacefully protesting in front of the provincial office of the National Food Authority, the police forcesdecided to open fire at the unarmed farmers resulting to three dead and more than a hundred wounded.
Prior to the incident, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC) confirmed in its March 10, 2016 advisory that “five (5) provinces were affected by dry spell while eighteen provinces, mostly from Mindanao, are experiencing dry condition since the previous month.”
The said report also cited “the occurrence of grassfires in General Santos City and Cotobato City have already been reported due to prolonged dry conditions and warmer than average temperatures attributed to the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.”
Even Malacañang was well aware of the calamity. In fact, as early as December, President Benigno Aquino III approved a P19 billion budget to combat theeffects of El Niño, which may last until May 2016. North Cotobato was already identified as one of the 9 provinces experiencing dry spell as early as December.
Top politicians however are still debating the distribution of such budget. The Philippines is currently going through a highly contested national election. In earlier reports, opposition party spokesperson Toby Tiangco claimed that the administration party was using P581 billion from the national budget supposedly to help in garnering votes for the administration’s candidates instead of helping the poor.
This is precisely the question being raised by the protesting farmers in Kidapawanbefore they where shot by the authorities – after three long months of severe drought, where is the calamity fundand food relief that were supposed to help them?
Up to now, even after the shooting of protesting farmers, the calamity funds are still not being distributed in North Cotobato including the 15,000 sacks of rice subsidy to farmers severely affected by drought. People are being told that the food relief will only be distributed when the campaign sortie of the administration’s political party arrives in the province.
We call upon the international community to unite in supporting the people of Kidapawan and condemn the killings of innocent farmers and other victims of state repression in the Philippines.
We also call for the investigation and prosecution of government officials responsible for anomalies in managing the calamity funds and the violent dispersal of the protesting farmers especially for the killing of RotelloDaelto of Arakan town who was already wounded when fatally shot at close range by the police.
We also call for an independent body to investigate the massacre in Kidapawan, which will involve civil society organizations, International Humanitarian Institutions and UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
North Cotabato provincial governor LalaTalino-Mendoza, the Provincial Police Chief and the AFP’s provincial commander should be immediately suspended while the incident is being investigated.
Justice for the Farmers of Kidapawan and other victims of state repression in the Philippines!
Defend the people’s right to food and the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly!
Implement genuine agrarian reform and food sovereignty!