Statement from Walden Bello on the Violent Dispersal of Farmers and Lumad barricade and killing of one farmer in Kidapawan City
April 1, 2016
I condemn in the strongest possible terms the violent attack of police and military forces against protestors that resulted in the killing of one farmer and injury to 13 others in Kidapawan City this morning.
The protesters are farmers and Lumads who have been suffering for months now the devastating impacts of El-Niño induced drought. They came and put up the barricade to demand 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.
Based on news reports, the number of people affected by drought in North Cotabato alone has reached over 30,000 people, mostly corn, rice, rubber and coconut farmers. In Maguindanao, another 20,000 more suffer the same fate. There are reports of people driven to eating feeds meant for their livestock and toxic root crops just to survive. This is clearly unacceptable. Mindanao today is at a critical turning point with the looming famine induced by El-Niño and yet there has not been a clear, urgent and long-term response from government.
In an election campaign dominated by trapo politics — money driven and based on personalities, rather than the issues of concern to the people — this crisis in Mindanao is being ignored in the most irresponsible manner.
I echo the call by FDC for the immediate relief from duty of the ground commander and PNP personnel, pending independent investigations. and for all those including local government officials, directly involved or complicit in the violent dispersal to face sanctions and brought to justice.
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.
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