Farmer dead, dozens hurt in Kidapawan bloody picket dispersal

John Unson - Philstar.com

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines — A farmer was killed while more than a dozen others were hurt in a violent clash between policemen and peasant groups blocking since Wednesday portions of a national highway in Kidapawan City.

The police had repeatedly tried to negotiate first the voluntarily dispersal of the farmers, but failed to persuade them to dismantle their barricades causing inconvenience to motorists and commuters since day one of their mass actions.

Without any written permit, the farmers converged in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato’s provincial capital, to demand for government relief subsidies, such as rice, seeds of drought-resistant vegetables, and other provisions needed to mitigate the hunger now besetting their communities as a result of the continuing dry spell that started in late November.

Nine of the injured farmers were identified as Ricky Maat, Ejay Salaber, Alce Awi, Mario Ansabo, Roland Jampas, Darwin Madiao, Leo Deyong, Roger Imuy and Rodulfo Tan.

Sources from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said one of their senior officials in Mindanao, Sheena Duazo, was also injured in the incident.

Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista on Thursday said North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza was ready to dialogue the night before with leaders of the farmers, but none of them came to the city hall to meet the governor and discuss with her their demands.

Thousands of commuters and motorists were affected when some 5,000 farmers from different towns of North Cotabato blocked strategic stretches of the Cotabato-Davao and the Sultan Kudarat-Davao Highway in North Cotabato in a bid to catch the attention of the media and government relief agencies.

Witnesses told reporters Friday’s clash erupted when policemen and social welfare workers arrived to gather the children brought there to be used as shields by the picketers, led by Mindanao-based officials of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Local officials earlier said they received feedback from confidential informants purporting that many of the peasants who barricaded on the highways were coerced by the New People’s Army to join the mass action.

There were talks that spread around early Friday about a planned visit to the picket lines of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte to meet and talk to the picketing farmers.

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