Justice for the Victims of State Violence in Kidapawan, North Cotabato!
Posted on 5 April 2016
IBON International statement on the Kidapawan Massacre
IBON International condemns in the strongest terms the violent repression in Kidapawan undertaken by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in response to the occupation by 6,000 unarmed peasants and Lumad tribe-members of the Kidapawan highway to demand food aid and immediate relief from drought for the six (6) El Niño-stricken municipalities of which they are residents. The attack reportedly resulted in at least two (2) deaths and over a hundred injured, while some 89 (including women, elderly and six minors) are counted among those still missing.
The peasants and Lumad had been in negotiations with the provincial Gov. Lala Talino-Mendoza, who responded to the demand with an offer of 3 kilos per person, which would have been provided every three months. For many of the protestors, the meager offer seemed to belie the government’s claim to have stored sufficient rice for calamities in government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). In the midst of the El Niño drought and the resulting hunger that has spread through the North Cotabato communities, not a single bag of rice had been released.
While some have been arrested, around 4,500 of the protestors were trapped at the Methodist Church where they sought sanctuary, and state forces continue to refuse them safe passage back to their homes.
IBON International calls for the immediate release of all protestors and the pullout of the police and military forces present at the location. It should be recognized that, under Philippine law, it is illegal for law enforcement to carry arms within a 100-meter radius of a public protest, and it is just as illegal to open fire upon the protestors.
It is, however, unnecessary to turn to the law to understand the great injustice evident in responding with state violence to residents who more appropriately require humanitarian intervention. It must be remembered that the region was already considered to be in a state of calamity as early as last year, so such intervention is long overdue, and any attempts to further forestall the release of the calamity funds and the sacks of rice promised to the residents as assistance should be recognized as the acts of criminal cruelty.
Accordingly, IBON International calls for a thorough and independent probing of the incident, and for Gov. Talino-Mendoza, the local government units (LGUs), the PNP, and the current administration to be held accountable to the extent each are liable for the killings and other human rights violations.
The state violence deployed against the peasants and indigenous community in Kidapawan, as well as deplorable living conditions, must be understood as symptoms of larger social problems in evidence throughout Asia.
Three days before the incident in Kidapawan, in fact, 700 marching farmers in the Central Sulawesi of Indonesia drew rubber-bullet fire from police and military forces. The result was 14 injuries, 103 arrests. The farmers had been marching to the provincial capital to participate in the “Day of the Landless,” a global