Statement on the Massacre of Farmers in Kidapawan

Migrante NL Den Haag strongly denounces the violent dispersal and continued harrassment of farmers, agricultural workers and lumads by police and military forces under the orders of North Cotabato governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza. The dispersal resulted in 3 farmers dead (namely Rotello Daelto, Victor Lumandag, and Enrico Pabrica), 116  injured (18 critical), 89 missing, and 2 tortured and still missing. Seventy-eight were also illegally arrested.

On March 30, more than 6,000 farmers barricaded the Cotabato-Davao highway to protest the slow delivery of urgently needed relief and government assistance resulting from 7 months of drought which destroyed their only means of livelihood. Earlier, the farmers have made several appeals to the local government (LGU) to release 15,000 sacks of rice as immediate aid for families severely affected by the calamity. Aside from rice, the farmers also demanded free distribution of seedlings, increase in the farmgate prices of agricultural crops and immediate pullout of military troops in the North Cotabato towns. In response to these appeals, the LGU made the farmers go through long and bureaucratic processes such as the DSWD´s food for work program when there was no work available and farmers could not plant anymore as a result of the drought. The LGUs also gave many farmers the runaround by instructing them to go to other agencies at the provincial level for assistance.

As early as July 2015, a drought was already monitored and expected to intensify by October and last until May or June this year (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/709006/pagasa-warns-el-nino-most-intense-in-17-yrs-by-october). On September 2015, PAGASA already raised the alarm of a strong El Nino affecting several provinces in Mindanao which were already observed to have long dry spells since June 2015 (http://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/philippines-mindanao-impact-el-ni-o-january-2016) with some towns declared in states of calamity as early as April 2015 (http://interaksyon.com/article/108592/drought–2-n–cotabato-towns-under-state-of-calamity-south-cotabato-may-follow-suit).  This alone should have prompted the government to take remedial measures and make requests for budgetary allocations since this would have severe impacts on the planting and harvesting season in late 2015. In late January 2016, North Cotabato was eventually declared in a state of calamity (http://cnnphilippines.com/regional/2016/01/22/North-Cotabato-state-of-calamity-el-nino.html). There was sufficient warning and enough time to set up a machinery for relief operations to meet the demands of the farmers.

The farmers, reeling from decades of oppression and exploitation from the landlords, continue to suffer not only from the indifference of the government in times of natural disasters but also from the violence it inflicts on them when they demand for relief and assistance. Having already endured the impact of a poor harvest in the second half of 2015, the farmers still face a bleak harvest and mounting debts this planting season with the drought expected to last longer and relief still wanting. Already with a poor track record in dealing with disasters as in the cases of typhoons Haiyan (2013) and Pablo (2012), the current BS Aquino administration gives more priority in winning the elections for its candidate Mar Roxas who was merely two hours away from the massacre, campaigning in an adjacent town. The concerns of the farmers are dispensed with fascist measures rather than providing immediate relief worried that this would disrupt and divert funds from the campaign. After all, the BS Aquino clan already has the blood of the farmers in their hands after the Mendiola massacre of 1987 and the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.

On April 1, the LGU, with no intention of giving in to the demands of the suffering farmers, sent armed police and military forces with fire trucks to forcefully lift the barricades. The farmers had no choice but to stand their ground. With very little to defend themselves, the farmers were forced to retreat and seek refuge in the United Methodist Church. Many were injured and some have died in the process. There were several arrests and disappearances. The police continued to lay siege on the church to make more arrests. Several days after the massacre, both Malacanang and the LGUs still refuse to provide relief to the farmers and instead harass the victims by militarizing the whole town. The LGU even tried to prevent the sacks of rice donated by private individuals to be distributed to the farmers claiming that politicians are taking advantage of the situation.

Migrante NL Den Haag demands:
Immediate release of the relief goods and assistance to the farmers of drought stricken areas.
Justice to the victims of the massacre of farmers at Kidapawan.
Stop the harassment of unarmed protesters.
Stop the militarization of drought stricken areas of North Cotabato.
Hold the BS Aquino administration responsible for the massacre of farmers in Kidapawan.