New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines Condemns the Kidapawan Massacre

For Immediate Release

April 1, 2016

Reference: Natalie Agosto, Mass Campaigns Officer, NYCHRP, nychrp@gmail.com

New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) vehemently condemns the shooting of farmers who were demanding relief goods in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, Mindanao this morning.

Led by a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), an affiliate of the Philippines chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils), the farmers were on the third day of their protest barricade at the local National Food Authority (NFA) to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice to alleviate hunger arising from massive crop failures. These crop failures are a result of widespread drought throughout the region brought about by a prolonged El Niño.

The NFA is responsible for ensuring food security for the entire country but had refused for three days to deliver the calamity aid to the people who were starving from drought. Instead, the Philippine National Police (PNP) effected a brutal dispersal of the unarmed farmers. Giving the demonstrators no moment of relief, the PNP showered the farmers with bullets not even moments after their demonstration was set to conclude. 116 people were injured, 89 are missing, 2 have been tortured and 3 are reported dead.

“The PNP’s standard operating procedure requires them to exhaust all efforts to effect a voluntary dispersal of demonstrations, not a violent massacre of innocent people,” said Rodrigo Bacus, a member of NYCHRP. “They are instructed to use the minimum force necessary and are in fact prohibited from bringing in any equipment for dispersal beyond a rattan stick, kevlar helmet, and handcuffs. That the PNP even had guns in the first place with which to shoot people shows a conscious desire to ignore the rights and dignity of innocent people. The brave farmers of Kidapawan were merely exercising their civic duty to hold the government accountable to their responsibility to provide food in times of drought. In return, they were met with bullets and other forms of violence. The PNP’s deplorable actions on this bloody day is reflective of a corrupt government desirous only of profit and not the actual protection of the rights and dignity of its people.”

“As we speak, the machinery of the government is aiming to explain away the massacre of its own people that happened today, and stigmatize and blame the poor for simply demanding very basic rights. Never forget that the same tactics were used by the current President’s family and allies in the massacre of farmers in Hacienda Luisita. We must remain vigilant in our criticism and know that ultimately this is an act deplorable to international law, deplorable to any law, and deplorable and abhorrent to even the most basic and innocent conscience anywhere in this world,” Rodrigo continues.

Despite the fact that Mindanao has extremely fertile land that is rich in natural resources, the people live in poverty; and due to trade policies which keep the means of agriculture primitive, farmers are dependent upon their crops for their livelihood. Additionally, to protect these foreign corporate interests, the Armed Forces of the Philippines often oppresses farmers, imposing curfews upon their work and making it even more difficult for them to care for their crops.  One rotation of crop failure can mean starvation for farmers and their families. U.S. foreign military aid helps to fund and train these military operations in the Mindanao region.

The Aquino administration continues to fail the people, even as he exits the presidency this year. Over a year later, Aquino has still failed to provide relief to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and has failed on multiple counts to provide relief goods to the people of North Cotabato. Aquino’s blatant neglect and disregard for the people he claims to serve is abhorrent. He must be held accountable for his crimes against the people, for being comfortable sitting in Malacaកang while the hard working farmers in Mindanao starve due to his cooperation with foreign trade agreements and his refusal to provide aid and for his fascist lethal response to those who are unarmed and demanding what is rightfully theirs.

NYCHRP demands justice and relief for the farmers in North Cotabato and an end to U.S. military aid!

#BigasHindiBalas #FarmsNotArms #StopLumadKillings