Karapatan: Justice still elusive on second year since Kidapawan

The violent dispersal of protesters in Kidapawan City left two dead and more than a hundred injured. File photo

Karapatan: Justice still elusive on second year since Kidapawan

(Philstar.com) - April 1, 2018 - 12:30pm
MANILA, Philippines — No government official has been held liable for the bloody dispersal of a farmers' protest in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato in 2016 that killed two protesters and left hundreds injured, rights group Karapatan said Sunday.
The group marked the deaths of farmer Darwin Sulang and Kidapawan resident Enrico Fabligar on April 1, 2016 by saying farmers in the Philippines are worse off two years after security forces fired on a crowd of farmers who had picketed in Kidapawan to call for the release of rice and food aid.
They had been asking for assistance to address a drought that had hit the province and low farmgate prices that was compounding the problem.
"Scores were wounded; more than 80 were illegally arrested and detained, including pregnant women and the elderly. Police and military surrounded the hospitals and a church compound, harassing the farmers," Karapatan said of the incident.
According to news reports at the time, the clash also left two police officers in critical condition
The rights group said that police officials involved in the dispersal had been awarded medals that have not been revoked by the Duterte administration. Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum, provincial police chief, was also named director of the Davao City Police Office, Karapatan said. 
"Senate hearings were conducted, and the Commission on Human Rights had an investigation. The survivors testified on the accountability of the local government, the police, and the military. The detained farmers still face the absurd and fabricated charges against them in court," it said.
In contrast, Karapatan also said, "while strong and compelling evidence were provided in the administrative and criminal charges filed on April 25, 2016 against the perpetrators, not one government official has been made to account for what is known as the Kidapawan carnage."

CHR recommended raps

The CHR, which reaped criticism at the time for also recommending charges against protesters involved in the violent dispersal, said in its report that "[w]hatever violence may have come from the side of the protesters, there is no justifying the use by the Philippine National Police of firearms."
It also said that "[i]t is clear that the PNP fired the first shot in a situation where they were not even supposed to bring guns."
The commission also found that "[t]here was failure on the part of the provincial government to release and deliver food supplies to the farmer-protesters despite the availability of resources."
Karapatan said violence against farmers has continued under what it said is a counterinsurgency program "that has emboldened State forces to kill, maim and illegally arrest civilians." It said at least 110 farmers have been killed under the present administration.
"Rights violations are committed with even greater impunity. The quality of lives of the Filipino peasantry has not improved," it said.
"Yet, we remember. For in remembering, we are reminded of the courage of the Filipino peasants to confront the State for what is truly theirs — their right to own the land that they till, the right to food and decent living, their right to protest and march, their right to fight for the welfare of their families," the group also said. — Jonathan de Santos

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