Party list lawmakers have filed a resolution urging Congress to investigate the bloody dispersal of protesters in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato that killed two men and left more than a hundred injured last April 1, 2016.
“According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the starvation and extreme production difficulties led to the protest of about 6,000 farmers and Lumads from different towns in North Cotabato due to the former administration’s inability to address the effects of the drought,” said ANAKPAWIS Rep. Ariel B. Casilao.
House Resolution 28 is directing the Committee on Human Rights, Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Special Committee on Food Security to conduct an inquiry on what is now known as the “Kidapawan Massacre.”
Aside from Casilao, other authors of the resolution are BAYAN MUNA Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, GABRIELA Reps. Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro and KABATAAN Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.
The lawmakers noted that the province of North Cotabato was officially placed in a state of calamity since January 2016.
There were reportedly food support in preparation for the drought, but the local government offered only three kilos of rice for each farmer every three months.
Lawmakers said the PNP-Region 12 executed a violent dispersal operation against the protesting farmers with the use of water cannons and truncheons.
“Under the law, carrying of firearms by law enforcers within 100 meters of a protest action is prohibited and firing at unarmed protesters is likewise illegal,” said Zarate.
Versions of the farmers and civilian witnesses’ stories were consistent with the video footages of the incident and all confirmed that the dispersal unit opened fire at the protesters.
Meanwhile, De Jesus said according to human rights group Karapatan, seventy eight of their companions were mauled and randomly arrested by the police including the elderly and pregnant women.
Further, according to Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples and Peasants (SAGIPP), police and military personnel held the farmers hostage at the Spottswood United Methodist Church (UMC) compound and had also cut the electricity off the area.
During the Senate committee hearing on April 20, 2016, former North Cotabato Police Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum attested that re-elected Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza was the one who ordered the violent dispersal.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on May 27, 2016 recommended filing of charges against the local government and police officials but did not recommend dropping off direct assault charges against the pregnant women and the elderly.
“Up to this day, no charges have been filed against government or police officials for the violent dispersal and for the deaths of Darwin Sulang and Enrio Fabligar who was not even among the protesters,” Castro added.
Mindavote, which was the first to post the request for rice donations for the protesting farmers, fully supports the call for an investigation.