On the Killings of Protesting Farmers in Kidapawan

5 April 2016 (Updated)
The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights vehemently condemns the brutal dispersal of protesting peasants in Kidapawan, North Cotabato last April 1. Reports of the incident reveal glaring violations of human rights committed by state security forces. The violence used by state against the farmers clearly violated the people’s right to life, and right to freedom of assembly. To date, two are confirmed dead and over a hundred were reported injured due to indiscriminate firing by the police. At least 88 people reported missing as of April 2. The illegal arrests of around 79 other individuals (34 women, 3 are pregnant) also violate the victims right against arbitrary detention and illegal arrest.

One of the farmer protester bleeds heavily after being injured during the violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan on April 1 (Photo from Kilab Multimedia)

Words cannot express our condemnation of this incident. We are overwhelmed by outrage and we are appalled by the extreme violence this government continues to inflict on people whose fate it has dragged to abysmal hunger and despair even prior to the killings. For months, the farmers of Southern Mindanao suffered hunger and incurred debts because their crops were destroyed by El Niño. On February 5, a farmer from the same region committed suicide after his crops were destroyed by the drought. This is so telling of unbearable misery, a farmer would rather take his life than suffer.
Still, many of the farmers persisted and resolved to seek the government support due them, if only to sustain their families until after the drought. On March 30, over 5,000 farmers held a protest. For three days they barricaded a major hi-way, with simple demands: rice and subsidy. But instead of giving aid, the government ordered state security forces to strafe their barricade with bullets.Instant and widespread public condemnation followed the incident. But the Aquino government and its local allies are unmoved. As though gloating over the demise, pain and grief of their victims, the government even honored the police officials involved in the brutal dispersal. Such smugness and heartlessness is exceptional. It is despicable. While Malacañang has stated that it would investigate the incident, the local government and police forces continue to harass and vilify the peasants and their supporters. On Saturday, the police searched for explosives in  the United Methodist Church compound that served as refuge for the peasants. And on Sunday, the police barricaded the gates of the same church compound to prevent other farmers seeking aid to join their fellow farmers in the church sanctuary. The 79 individuals arrested were charged with direct assault only recently. The killings in Kidapawan sorely demonstrates the profound injustice the Aquino government has perpetuated and engendered throughout its six-year term. To begin with, the farmers in North Cotabato are already victims of a bogus agrarian reform, wherein farmers virtually get no support from the government while the landlord class—to which the family of President Aquino belongs—continues to reign over lands which should have been distributed to the farmers. It is not incidental that in last six years, the agriculture sector nearly shrunk with minimal growth rates as a result of Aquino’s neoliberal policies which left local farmers in the direst of situations. Ineptness and corruption characterized the Aquino government’s response to disasters and climate change impacts like typhoons and El Nino. Under the Aquino administration, over 300 individuals were extra-judicially killed among hundreds of other victims of numerous human rights violations, as reported by group Karapatan. Specifically, the people of Mindanao have become targets of the state’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. Over 50 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are deployed in Mindanao sowing violence and fear among people justly defending their right to land from the entry of mining corporations and corporate agri-plantations. Blood is all over Aquino’s hands. The Kidapawan killings is only the latest addition to to the history of the Cojuangco-Aquino’s history of violent suppression of peasants who wage struggles for true agrarian reform—from the Mendiola massacre in 1987 to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights grieve with the family of victims of the Kidapawan killings. We stand with them in their fight for immediate relief and justice. The violence and harassment against the farmers in Kidapawan should immediately end. Those detained must be freed immediately and their demand for rice and subsidy be provided to them. The police personnel and local government officials responsible for the violence must be held liable. Ultimately, the Aquino government must be brought to justice for its many crimes against the Filipino people. #BigasHindiBala Justice for the victims of Kidapawan Killings! Stop the Killings!