11 April 2016
“We are one with the farmers, and the Filipino people in calling for justice for the victims in the Kidapawan. There is no justification for the violent dispersal and use of high caliber firearms against the farmers especially because their demand for food is legitimate,” said Kamille Deligente, coordinator of Women Workers in Struggle for Employment Empowerment and Emancipation (Women WISE3) in a candle lighting activity held by the group last April 8, a week after the violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan.
Women WISE3 members gathered to hold a short program on the grounds of Camarin Residence I and lighted candles as sign of grief and call for justice for the farmers and victims in Kidapawan. The group held placards containing popular calls #BigasHindiBala and condemned the violent dispersal and demanded justice for the victims of the violent dispersal.
On April 1, close to 6,000 North Cotabato farmers barricading the national hi-way were violently dispersed by the police resulting in two casualties and 10 fatally injured. The farmers have been on the streets since March 29 demanding the release of rice subsidy as their farmlands were heavily stricken by drought due to El Nino. On January, the provincial government placed the entire North Cotabato province under the state of calamity.
“We condemn the continuing harassment of the farmers and we demand those detained be immediately released and their case dismissed. We find it desperate that government is accusing the farmers to have been infiltrated by the rebels to justify the dispersal. Isn’t this the same justification that Arroyo government used in Hacienda Luisita massacre? There can be no justification to shoot the hungry farmers and the poor asking for rice badly stricken by climate change,” Deligente added.
About 79 individuals including senior citizens and women, were arrested and charged with direct assault upon person in authority. Three out of 28 women now detained in Kidapawan Convention Hall are pregnant. The court handling the case recently lowered the amount of bail from 12,000 per person to 2,000 per person.
“From one disaster to another, we have seen how the Aquino administration neglected the needs of the poor, yet it placed them in prominence if they serve the election campaign. To the government the much-needed food that farmers were asking was something that can be sidelined and delayed or tempered by pronouncements that the government is prepared for the drought. Such pronouncements only aggravate the pain of rumbling stomachs.”
The group added that they share the anger of many towards the indifference of PNoy and the national government who “has not done anything” to expedite disbursement of the calamity fund to aid the victims of drought. “Is it because the fund was already spent on something else?” Deligente asked.
The group also pointed out that under Aquino, the farmers, workers and the urban poor endured too much poverty and violence. With at least 25 victims of extra-judicial killings of workers and the urban poor and numerous cases of violent dispersal of workers strikes and demolition of urban poor communities, Aquino’s record in human rights is a bloody one.
“We hold the Aquino government, the PNP and the local government of Kidapawan and North Cotabato accountable for what transpired in Kidapawan. Ultimately, we hold the Aquino government accountable for its exemplary record of violence and continuing attacks on the lives of the poor,” Deligente ended.###