Leave no stone unturned in Kidapawan probe

We, members of All-Out Peace (AOP), a network of peace advocates, today urge the Senate of the Philippines to do everything possible within its powers to deliver justice to the bereaved families of the farmers killed, wounded and detained during the Kidapawan incident last April 1, and to exact accountability from all involved and responsible for the vicious dispersal of our hungry farmers.

AOP stands for and supports universal respect for human rights and human dignity, as we believe that it is the duty of the state to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of its people including freedom of expression and assembly. The despicable violence in Kidapawan City, which was committed in broad day-light resulting to the deaths of three farmers, injuring almost a hundred, and led to the arrest of about 80 people can never be justified and thus, deserve the utmost condemnation, not only of the Filipino people but of the entire humanity.

The Senate probe on Kidapawan should first and foremost establish the fact that protesters were composed of about six thousand suffering and hungry men, women and children, battered by three months of drought and left with no option but to demand the release of calamity fund and emergency food aid. Unfortunately, these legitimate demands were met with unnecessary brute force.

Who ordered the dispersal of farmers? Regardless of which party started the violence, did the local government and the police observe the principle and practice of maximum tolerance? Was there really an anomaly in the release and distribution of calamity funds? Was there an attempt from the local government to even block the smooth entry of relief and donations to the hungry farmers after the incident? These are a few of the relevant questions that the Senate probe on Kidapawan must promptly respond to.

AOP reiterates its call for a thorough, transparent, credible and impartial investigation to ferret out the truth and ultimately get into the root of the incident on April 1. We stand with the victims and long-suffering farmers of Kidapawan and elsewhere caught in the clutches of deprivation and displacement brought on by calamities like El Nino.

We strongly demand for the immediate and unconditional release of farmers who are still under detention. Moreover, as a ‘state of calamity’ has been declared in seven provinces, five cities and 24 municipalities, we call on the national government and its agencies to exhaust all means to address the immediate needs of the farmers and other communities who remain vulnerable to climate-related displacement and other disasters.

We urge the Senate of the Philippines to stand resolutely for truth, human rights and justice.