MANILA, 2April2016 (BicolToday.com) – The presence of children brought by protesting farmer-parents in the Kidapawan City barricade and the subsequent carnage that happened Friday morning when police fired their guns at protesters has alarmed the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).
CRC condemned, in the strongest terms, the indiscriminate firing launched by joint forces of the Kidapawan Philippine National Police and elements of the 39th Infantry Batallion Philippine Army during a violent dispersal of farmers and lumad who set up a human barricade at the Kidapawan National Highway in North Cotabato.
The protesters are appealing for government assistance as they have been suffering from the effect of drought brought about by El Niño since November 2015.
As of this writing, the incident has killed three farmers, 30 were injured while another 102 individuals, including women and children, were accounted missing. Those who were able to take refuge in a nearby church are cordoned by police and army elements. The police and army are threatening to arrest anyone who will exit the church.
“This violent dispersal is a blatant violation of the rights of the people to peaceably assemble. The protesting farmers together with their families demand the long overdue action from the government to save them from hunger but the government responded not with food but with bullets,” said Jacquiline Ruiz.
Ruiz noted that the most affected by drought are children. ‘Their well-being is jeopardized from constant hunger as a result of the slow-paced response of the government to their situation,” said Ruiz, adding that the farmers demanded the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as subsidy for farmers from the North Cotabato provincial government’s calamity fund.
“The Malacanang has stated that those who are responsible will be met with justice, but to let thousands of farmers and their children suffer for over five months of hunger and let them be massacred by government forces, are but clear violations of people’s rights to which the Aquino government is accountable”, added Ruiz.
Ruiz said that the psychological impact of the incident to the affected children will further aggravate their current deprived situation. Their inviolable right for survival was threatened as the government continues to use brute force instead of providing their basic needs.
This violence, according to Ruiz, has once again traced the bloody record of the Aquinos in dealing with the demand of peasants. In 1987, the Mendiola massacre claimed the lives of 13 farmers while in 2004, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre left 7 farm workers dead.
“We hold President Aquino, North Cotabato Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza and the elements of the PNP and AFP accountable for this incident. We urge other child rights groups, advocates and colleagues to condemn the violent actions of the government to peasants in North Cotabato and to demand the safety of all farmers and their families,” Ruiz said. [BicolToday.com]