By BicolToday.com News Team
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato (UPDATE), 2April2016 – Five are confirmed dead, 2 females and 3 males, while 87 are still missing and not accounted for, latest updates from the Kidapawan carnage said Friday night.
The names of the two females were still being verified, while the three dead farmers were: Rotello Daelto from Brgy. Binoongan, Arakan municipality, member of Arakan Peasant Progressive Organization (APPO); Victor Lumandang from Brgy. Alobayon, Magpet, member of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Paghiusa (ASLPC); and Enrico Pabrica, 30 years old from Kidapawan City.
Police fire guns at farmers in peaceful assembly
Police and Army soldiers cordoned the nearby Methodist Church where some 4,500 protesters have sought refuge after state security forces using automatic Armalite rifles opened fire at barricading farmers, estimated at 6,000 in a violent dispersal operation that wounded a hundred protesters.
An hour after the shooting incident which happened about 11 o’clock Friday morning, Kilab Multimedia reported initially that some 30 persons were badly injured by weapons fire, with 1 confirmed dead, but later in the evening 5 were reported dead, and the number of injured has risen to more than a hundred.
(See related news link: Policemen fire at protesting, hungry farmers asking food aid assistance in Kidapawan City; 30 injured, 1 dead ).
On-site report said that during the violent dispersal, police stormed the crowd with water cannon and arrested scores of protesters including children.
Missing 87 farmers: abducted by state troops?
About 87 persons were reported missing, and reports said many of those missing have been abducted by police and soldiers and taken to unknown destinations.
Meantime, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis said North Cotabato Police Director Alexander Tagum is going to serve an arrest warrant tonight (Friday night) against the protesters, and is awaiting a court order tonight to implement the arrest.
State troops have cordoned the Methodist Church compound to prevent the 4,500 protesters from leaving and had the electricity cut off. Among the Methodist crowd are several wounded needing medical attention.
Police also banned the media and NGO representatives from entering the church compound.
LGU officials and social welfare personnel have not shown up at the site, and there were indications no government intervention in behalf of the protesters’ welfare shall come to the farmers’ rescue, said reports.
6 children missing
Meanwhile, local representatives of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center are worrying six children are still missing, aside from the 87 farmers who are not accounted for, while the NGO personnel are trying to help the entrapped protesters who have sought sanctuary inside the Methodist Church.
However, NGO search teams for the missing farmers are banned by state troops from leaving the church premises.
The search teams want to verify reports if the missing children were taken to the DSWD office, and if the 87 farmers are detained by the police.
“No rally permit” – justifiable excuse for police carnage?
In a related development, North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza said she and the LGUs of the second district of North Cotabato shall take full responsibility over the incident, but it was not made clear on what kind of responsibility the LGUs and her office will assume.
Trying to make some “justification” over the police carnage in Kidapawan, Governor Mendoza said the protesting farmers had no rally permit for their barricade.
As of presstime this Friday night, the 4,500- plus protesters are still blocked by state troops from leaving the church compound.
There is no report on who will provide food for the hungry farmers holed up inside the church grounds which is under tight watch by state security troops, who also banned humanitarian NGOs and the media from getting inside the church compound.
Civil society in anger, in grief
Civil society has reacted angrily over the carnage in Kidapawan City. In the Bicol Region, Vince Casilihan, a human rights advocate, said: “A condemnable act of violence! Ruthless government security with more guns used in human rights violations. Their bullets had silenced three (3) farmers and wounded 40+ others.”
“Indeed, feeding the ruthless AFP and PNP with guns only satisfy their cravings for flesh and farmers’ blood. Instead of rendering basic social services, the brutality of Aquino regime and its cohorts LGU officials in North Cotabato have driven the civilians into deeper terror. Food, not bullets,” Casilihan said.
The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) condemned the State troops for firing their guns on farmers who were only demanding food aid assistance from the government’s calamity fund after they had suffered losses brought by months-long drought caused by El Nino.
In Manila, ACT Partylist Representative Antonio Tinio said: “There can be no justification whatsoever for the PNP in using lethal violence against unarmed civilians. Criminal charges must be filed against all PNP officials and personnel involved. There should be no impunity.”
Human rights group, Karapatan, pointed the blame to top officials: “We hold Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Department of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, Liberal Party member and North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza, and PNP Col. Alex Tagum accountable for the said assault on the farmers’ legitimate protest action for the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as subsidy for those affected by El Niño phenomenon.” (with reports from Kilab Multimedia)