From the Coalition Against Land Grabbing:
Dear Friends and Supporters,
By now, many of us here in the Philippines have already received this tragic news and feel completely demoralized for the killing of three people [two non-indigenous farmers and a member of the indigenous organization Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Paghiusa (ASLPC)]. We also like to share now this sad event (again, another dark page of our history) with our allies and colleagues abroad.
On Wednesday 30 March, hundred of protesters had marched across the Cotabato-Davao highway, paralyzing the vital artery, as they demanded immediate relief from the devastating drought that has gripped the province since November.
But late Friday morning, security forces opened fired on them, dispersing the crowd of farmers and indigenous lumad people.
According to reliable sources the number of injured had climbed to 116 as of 10 p.m. Friday, at least 18 are hospitalized. But there are still around 88 missing. Also two policemen appear to be in critical conditions. Some reports suggest that two women were also reportedly dead. However, this information needs to be verified.
Let’s expect in the coming days the usual rebound of responsibilities between protesters and State forces on who started the attack first and possible speculations by the latter on whether NPA (New People’s Army) elements were behind the protest. Some presidential candidates and politicians are now exploiting the issue for the sake of their own campaigns, trying to get the sympathy of another important sector of voters (the farmers). They all want ‘to look cool’ now, by condemning the brutality of the attack, but the question is: Did they do anything in their official/individual capacities to prevent this and respond to the demands of farmers and marginalized sectors? And, more importantly, how is our Government addressing farmers’ crisis and the worsening of climate change (which plays such a heavy tool on our agriculture)?
The answer unfortunately is well know to most of us: rather than focusing on concrete and sustainable plans to improve production on farmers’ land and land security, the government is rather pushing for large scale industrial agribusiness (e.g. oil palm plantations) and mining. Not surprisingly, recent years have seen an exponential increase in land deals across the Philippines with the conversion of large expanses of land with crops mainly intended for export, while the household economy of small farmers and indigenous people has been breaking apart. Sadly, our beautiful country is witnessing a State-driven massive land grab, pushed by growing global consumption of palm oil, minerals, etc. with agribusiness enterprises and mining corporations taking over with the support of complicit government officials, while local communities are deprived of critical resources and virgin forest is being felled down.
Until now we see nothing more than a naked attempt on the part of the Government to shield itself from accountability, especially with respect to the adverse impact that its narrow-minded and short-sighted policies are having on climate change. If indigenous peoples and farmers in Kidapawan need to resort to public demonstrations for their basic need to be heard (e.g. food and land), this – clearly – signals that there is something profoundly wrong with the way in which our government deals with its constituents.
The State should make immediate plans for restoring the livelihoods of the affected communities in Kidapawan and throughout the Philippines and stop its committment for irresponsible agribusiness and mining. Whoever the next President will be, he/she will have to tell very frankly to the Nation whether he/she wants to follow the steps of his/her predecessors (e.g. plundering the country for the benefit of foreign investors and Filipino oligarchies) or whether, he/she will finally give up buzzwords such as ‘foreign investment opportunities’ and work, instead, for sustainable agricultural production and local food security.
Undoubtedly, securing land for local communities, fostering sustainable agriculture, environmental protection and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights are priorities that can no longer be postponed.
The CALG Team
Coalition against Land Grabbing – Philippines
See below key statements and opinion on Kidapawan shooting and links to recent press releases
STATEMENTS AND OPINION ON KIDAPAWAN SHOOTINGS
“We waited three long months, bearing the unbearable heat and deep hunger. We endured days in this barricade under the sun, but only to be met by bullets after negotiations failed to reach a settlement. We told them that all we wanted was relief from the drought, especially the rice, and we would leave, but the chief of police insisted that they would disperse us by force if we did not leave. Soon after, fire trucks bombarded us with water cannon and riot police began moving in and striking protesters with their batons. When the protesters resisted, they started shooting at us. At first, despite the casualties, the farmers stood their ground and wanted to fight back but we ordered a withdrawal to avoid more harm from happening. Now I lost a fellow farmer, and others are wounded, and many are hungry”.
Pedro Arnado, chairman – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Cotabato.
“There are around 50 religious from various congregations and denominations here who have been prevented by the police from going out to search for the missing and tend to the wounded. When we asked why they would not let us leave and who ordered them, they would not reply. But when we tried to go since they were not answering, police personnel armed with rifles immediately blocked our way”.
Ariel Casilao – Anakpawis party-list
“Children well-being is jeopardized from constant hunger as a result of the slow-paced response of the government to their situation. 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. 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.”
Jacquiline Ruiz – Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC)
“This is an unmerciful and inhumane treatment of our farmers in the strongest possible way. They were merely trying to get the local government’s attention to their plight in the face of El Niño, with Mindanao being hardest hit and their families facing hunger for months already. Instead of assistance and food, what they got were water cannons, batons and gunshots.”
Leonora Lava -Greenpeace Philippines
“The Kidapawan farmers are only demanding for the immediate release of calamity funds and rice by barricading the Cotobato-Davao Highway because of El Niño. Instead of giving rice, they received a storm of bullets from PNP”.
Marc Lino Abila – College Editors Guild of the Philippines National President.
“I condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms, people were only demanding urgent action from government both at the local and national levels. Theirs is a legitimate course of action, as they hope for a response in the form of rice and food to alleviate their hunger, but were met instead with deadly force and violence. This tragedy is a reflection not just of the failure of government to respond to the urgent needs of its people but a manifestation of the sad and declining state of agriculture in this country, particularly in Mindanao brought about by years of government neglect.”
Walden Bello – Senatorial aspirant
“We urge the government to investigate the incident, particularly the conduct of law enforcement personnel that may have led to the bloodshed, and hold accountable anyone found responsible regardless of rank or affiliation”.
Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch Philippines.
“It was like the Mendiola and Luisita massacres all over again. They will claim they are pro-farmers and are willing to help the farmers but instead of giving them rice and food they shoot them. What kind of government is this? They address a calamity with a bloodier calamity”. Neri Colmenares – Bayan Muna representative
“Criminal charges must be filed against all PNP officials and personnel involved. There should be no impunity. The failure to hold accountable the State forces responsible for the Mendiola massacre of 1987 and the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004 has directly led to this atrocity. State security forces, such as the PNP in Kidapawan, probably think that, based on the precedents, they can shoot, maim, and kill unarmed farmers and get away with it.”
Antonio Tinio – ACT Teachers party-list Representative.
“We call nationwide peasant indignation protests and barricades to condemn this violence and injustice towards farmers and the Filipino people.”
Rafael Mariano – National Chairman KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
Links to Press Releases
WITH VIDEOS | 3 dead, 87 missing, 116 hurt as police fire on Cotabato human barricade
Miriam, Bongbong deplore ‘inhuman’ shooting of Kidapawan farmers
Aquino to blame for Kidapawan dispersal, says Duterte aide
Neri Colmenares, Robin Padilla seethe with rage on Kidapawan shooting
KIDAPAWAN SHOOTING| Rehimeng Aquino binira ng kampo ni Duterte dahil sa karahasan
BREAKING: Human Barricade Set Up Across Cotabato-Davao Highway in Kidapawan Fired by Security Forces, At Least 1 Died While Many Were Injured
Solon want Kidapawan PNP men prosecuted over shooting of unarmed farmers
2 farmers killed in clash in Kidapawan protest