DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Two years have passed but justice remained elusive for survivors of the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers who were affected by drought in North Cotabato, known as the Kidapawan Massacre.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Ebao Sulang, father of slain farmer Darwin Sulang, lamented that not one was held accountable for his son’s death.
“We already filed complaints in Manila. We call on the government agencies concerned to act on it and dispense justice for my son,” said Sulang.
Administrative complaints have been filed against North Cotabato local government officials led by Governor Emmylou Mendoza, and North Cotabato Philippine National Police Chief Alexander Tagum, but not a single official was charged.
On April 1, 2016, farmer Darwin Sulang and Kidapawan resident Enrico Fabligar were killed when police and military men fired rounds of bullets at around 6,000 farmers who asserted the release of rice and food aid for their families in Kidapawan City.
Scores were wounded, while more than 80 were illegally arrested and detained, including pregnant women and the elderly. Police and military also reportedly surrounded hospitals and a church compound, and harassed farmers.
In a statement on Sunday, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said what added insult to the farmers injury was when then Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Mel Senen Sarmiento, an alter ego of President Benigno Aquino III, awarded medals to the police officers who conducted the violent dispersal on April 2, a day after the carnage.
Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, she said, also reportedly paid off village officials to mobilize people to a support rally on April 4 for the police and local government officials responsible for the violent dispersal.
These public officials have resorted to various ploys to swing public opinion in their favor while conveniently tiptoeing around the fact that negligence, unpreparedness, and corruption have caused the drought to starve off thousands of farmers and their families. They have done everything except address the fundamental problem, which brought the farmers to the barricades, Palabay said.
It can be recalled that Senate hearings were conducted, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also conducted an investigation into the Kidapawan massacre.
The survivors testified on the accountability of the local government, the police, and the military, while the detained farmers still faced the absurd and fabricated charges against them in court.
While strong and compelling evidence were provided in the administrative and criminal charges filed on April 25, 2016 against the perpetrators, not one government official has been made to account for the Kidapawan carnage, Palabay said.
The militant leader also noted that executive officials have not retracted the awards they gave to the police officers.
North Cotabato police director Supt. Alexander Tagum is the current Davao City police chief, while Taliño-Mendoza remains as the provincial governor.
Palabay lamented how nothing has changed since there have been at least 110 peasants killed under President Rodrigo Dutertes regime.
From a callous landlord President to another murderous and brutal President, nothing has changed. Rights violations are committed with even greater impunity. The quality of lives of the Filipino peasantry has not improved, she said.
But Palabay said the public would continue to remember the courage of Filipino peasants who confronted the State for what is truly theirs.
Yet, we remember. For in remembering, we are reminded of the courage of the Filipino peasants to confront the State for what is truly theirs – their right to own the land that they till, the right to food and decent living, their right to protest and march, their right to fight for the welfare of their families, she said.
In remembering, we are driven to pursue justice, even if the system continues to favor the rich and those in power. In remembering, we reaffirm support for the aspirations and struggle of peasants and the Filipino people for a just and lasting peace, amid authoritarian regimes like Dutertes, she added.
Anakpawis party list Rep. Ariel Casilao has, likewise, lamented the Duterte administration’s failure to deliver justice to the farmers and individuals harmed during the violent dispersal.
He said the government’s failure to improve the lives of farmers through free land distribution, adequate support services in times of calamity will push poor and landless peasants to assert their right to government aid.
“Anakpawis condemned in the highest term possible the continuing complicity of the government to exact justice to farmers victims of various forms of violence in particular sponsored by the state itself,” he added. (davaotoday.com)