By Reynard Magtoto
KIDAPAWAN CITY, 3April2016 — “Why pit the unarmed protesting farmers and Lumads gripped sticks and stones against the power of the government to grant? They ask for rice, why serve them bullets?” questioned groups calling all justice-minded citizens to pressure the courts and the Aquino government.
People of North Cotabato who were severely affected by El Niño peacefully assembled along the Kidapawan Highway to demand subsidy of 15,000 sacks of rice from the National Food Authority, free distribution of seedlings, increase in crop prices, and the pull out of military forces in their communities.
Farmers and Lumad folk pleaded for government aid but North Cotabato Governor Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza, who most of them voted for, insisted to wait because procedures had to be followed.
Instead of listening to their demand, brutal procedure took over early morning last Friday. After the five-minute violent dispersal, bullets from PNP marked the Kidapawan massacre. Latest report says that 3 were dead while 2 dead females still being verified, 116 wounded, 89 missing and 2 tortured.
Witnesses said they saw police officers firing directly at the crowd even reports said it was the PNP who did the shooting.
Even religious group could not understand the government’s response to the legitimate peoples’ action. According to Ecumenical Bishops Forum, governing authorities are supposed to be God’s servants for the good of the people (Romans 13:1, 4). However, their response was the exact opposite as they became terrors to the people (Cf Romans 13:3).
All security state forces must pull out from the church area immediately according to Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general. “We call on all justice-minded citizens to pressure the courts and the Aquino government stop being war freaks and desist from threatening the people by withdrawing the arrest and search warrants issued against the protesters”.
The local United Methodist Church which responded to the victims of police brutality is also being harassed. The nearby Sportswood Methodist church and compound offered place for thousands, scores bloodied and disoriented. Among them is Bai Ali Indayla, a long-time human rights worker and now third nominee of Gabriela Women’s Party.
Ali Indayla was with 4,500 farmers at the Methodist Church. “Electricity was cut off and the police and military continue to surround us. Our lives are in danger. Even the media are not allowed to come near us,” she reportedly said via statuses shared by colleagues in GWP.
“As long as the police and military remain encamped around the church, the farmers and Lumad remain in danger. It adds up to the injustice. In hunger, they are threatened with death and trumped-up charges,” said Guevarra. “So this is where Aquino’s daang matuwid ends after six years – in another massacre”.
In a statement released by Ecumenical Bishops Forum, they demand accountability of the part of the authorities who ordered the police to open fire and call for an independent investigation by a competent authority to determine accountabilities.
Religious and civic groups demand punishment to those who will be found criminally responsible and guilty and justice for the victims of this unconscionable act against the people. [BicolToday.com]