April 2, 2016
Manila, Philippines – Indigenous peoples (IP) advocacy group Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino (Katribu) condemns in the strongest possible terms the mass shooting and dispersal of protesting Kidapawan farmers and Lumad along the Cotabato-Davao highway yesterday, April 1.
Around 6,000 farmers and indigenous peoples (IP) staged a barricade in Kidapawan city last March 30 to press for funds and support for local farmers victimized by El Nino. An estimated PhP 1 billion worth of damage in agriculture has been recorded in the region, putting 27 areas under a state of calamity. More than 28,000 hectares of rice were destroyed since November last year.
After the first negotiation between the local government and the protesters failed, in which Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza offered to give them an insulting and measly 3 kilos of rice per quarter, guns blazed against the hungry farmers. Instead of giving out sacks of rice, the local government of North Cotabato, thru the Philippine National Police, gave out a storm of bullets. The bloody and violent dispersal resulted to three deaths – which includes Lumad leader Vuctor Lumandang, 116 wounded individuals, 89 missing, and 2 cases of torture.
“This state-instigated terror and fascism is not new to the indigenous peoples, as can be testified by the 72 Lumad victims of extra-judicial killings under Aquino’s reign. The Lumad are still under attack, as they have always been. Theirs has been a struggle for land and life, and between life and death.” says Neen Sapalo, national spokesperson of Katribu.
“Noynoy Aquino has succeeded his mother and former President Cory Aquino in more ways than one. Their family name is tied to massacres like the ones that happened in Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita. Indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree. What is even more insulting is how the Aquinos are guilty of perpetuating the culture of impunity, how they always try to save face and recycle the lie that the farmers, both in Mendiola and in Kidapawan, initiated the violence by shooting at the police first. Our farmers have nothing: no food, no money – how can they even afford to have a gun?” adds Sapalo.
Under Batasang Pambansa 880, the carrying of firearms by the police within 100m of a protest action and the unnecessary firing of firearms are prohibited acts.
“The barricade and protest action is right and just. The people of North Cotabato have just spoken truth to power – a ‘power’ which the people deem useless in protecting them and their rights. The Aquino government is guilty of criminal negligence against the people he once lauded as his ‘boss’. His whole term stands in stark contrast with his big but empty promises,” ends Sapalo.
Katribu calls on the youth to stand in solidarity with the Kidapawan farmers, and all other peasants and indigenous peoples who fall victim to state fascism and neglect.
As advocates of IP rights, we call for an independent local and international investigation, and the immediate relief and aid for the hungry farmers and their families.
Katribu also holds Gov. Mendoza accountable for the Kidapawan shooting, and we must also have Aquino answer for his responsibility in perpetuating the culture of impunity in the entire period of his violent regime, a regime stained with human rights violations and killings.