Relatives of the victims and witnesses during the violent dispersal in Kidapawan City appear on the Senate public hearing held at the University of the Southeastern Philippines Obrero campus on Thursday, April 7. (Ace R. Morandante/

DAVAO CITY – Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano called on officials of the police to immediately release farmers who were arrested after a violent dispersal of a protest rally in Kidapawan, North Cotabato last Friday, April 1.

During a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Thursday, Human Rights Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said based on their initial probe, pregnant women and senior citizens were among those who were arrested by the PNP.

Cayetano said he finds it hard to believe “that pregnant women and senior citizens are brave enough to spearhead attacks against the Philippine National Police.”

​​Garcia said the farmers have been detained for a week after staging a protest to demand assistance from the government amid the worsening El Niño.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers based in Belgium also called upon the government “to release immediately those being arbitrarily detained; and to bring all those responsible to justice.”

In a statement, the IADL said the actions of the police “violate the rights to life and to be free from arbitrary detention enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the right to food guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

“The attack against unarmed civilians also violates the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law (CARHRIHL), to which the Philippine government is a party,” the lawyers’ group said.

“These illegal police actions are tacitly supported by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, as exemplified by his silence on the matter,” it added.

An independent fact-finding team led by human rights advocate on Wednesday found out at least 70 individuals are “illegally detained” in two separate locations — at the Kidapawan City gymnasium and at the convention center.

As of Thursday, April 7 the detained farmers were transferred to the city and provincial jails following court’s inquest. (

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