By GERALD LEIGH LAQUINON and
Genevieve G. Cantor,
Religious groups and local residents staged a candle-lighting rally here on Wednesday afternoon, five days after the bloody dispersal of farmer-protesters in Kidapawan City.
Headed by Iglesia Filipina Independiente and other sectoral groups, the rally condemned the human rights violation perpetrated by police and military forces against protesting farmers.
“We are in solidarity with the poor victims and their families in Kidapawan City who were killed, injured, arrested and tortured by the police and military,” said IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang.
After the dusts of the commotion were cleared, the violent dispersal left three farmers dead and 116 others wounded; 89 protesters are missing until now and 79 others were held in detention, facing charges.
Calang questioned the response of the government to the legitimate demands of the hungry farmers affected by severe drought caused by El Niño.
“They were simply demanding 15,000 sacks of rice and seedlings from the government after they waited in vain for its support, six months since the onset of the dry spell,” said Calang.
He said that the death of farmers brought by starvation due to government indecisiveness amidst the calamity is unfortunate enough, but the outright massacre of the farmers asking for food is totally condemnable in its highest sense.
“They asked for food, not bullets,” added Calang, reminding that the government is duty-bound to be at the forefront in helping those in need.
Most Rev. Deogracias S. Iniguez, Jr., DD, Co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum in his statement the on the violent dispersal of farmers and indigenous people in Kidapawan on April 1 said: “governing authorities are supposed to be God’s servants for the good of the people. However, their response was the exact opposite.”
He said the latest atrocity against the farmers in Kidapawan underlines the need for the international community to give attention to the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines and blighting fascism of the Aquino government.
Meanwhile, youth and students from the Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology also staged an indignation rally at the University Gate last Friday to call for justice.
Another ‘Black Friday’ rally organized by northern Mindanao farmers will be held at Magsaysay Park in the city on April 8 to condemn the incident and demand support for the farmers in the region similarly affected by the drought.