Final Report of the National Fact Finding and Humanitarian Mission to Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, Philippines
4-6 April 2016
“Yan ang napala ninyo sa kahihingi ng bigas. Mga tamad kasi kayo. Bigas ang inyong hinahanap, sa ospital kayo lumagpak (That’s what happens when you ask for rice. You are all lazy. You ask for rice, you end up in the hospital),” a policeman told Arnel Takyawan, 45, on the morning of April 1, 2016, as elements of the Philippine National Police violently dispersed 6,000 farmers in a protest rally in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, Philippines.
These words of the police merely represent the unjust and criminally negligible response of the government to the plight of farmers for urgent food aid amid the effects of the drought. The April 1 dispersal, which killed two persons and injured 11 others due to gunshot wounds, violated the farmers’ fundamental rights, with government lacking an urgent and comprehensive response to the damage, hunger and disaster due to drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon.
The figures of the damages due to El Niño are unspeakable. In North Cotabato, agriculture losses have reached PhP1 billion due to drought affecting the towns of Alamada, Pigcawayan, Kabacan, Matalam, Aleosan, Mlang, Magpet, Pikit, Tulunan, Carmen, Makilala and Kidapawan. Crop loss from the dry spell has already hit PhP989 million while rats destroyed PhP84.5 million worth of crops. At least 50,000 hectares of rice and corn farms were destroyed by rising temperatures, with more than 25,000 farmers losing their only source of income.
Almost three months before the incident, on January 20, 2016, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of North Cotabato has issued Resolution no. 014 declaring the province under a state of calamity. Yet, farmers like Takyawan and 6,000 more who decided to take action and demanded to the government were fed not with food but with bullets.
Since 2015, farmers who belong to chapters of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Mindanao have resolved to address the worsening impact of the drought on farmers’ lives and livelihood. With the declaration of the state of calamity, the protest action of the farmers in North Cotabato was organized to demand immediate food aid and other legitimate demands to address the situation of the drought-affected farmers.
From March 28 to March 29, 2016, farmers, who are members of KMP-North Cotabato and the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC) and their families, from different towns of North Cotabato converged at the Davao-Cotabato National Road in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, near the National Food Authority Office and the Spottswood Methodist Center to stage a protest. They came from different municipalities of North Cotabato such as Makilala, Mlang, Tulunan, Magpet, Roxas, Antipas, Arakan, and Kidapawan. By March 29, 2016, their number increased to 6,000. Majority of the farmers are Lumad.
Government officials, instead of heeding the demands of the 6,000 farmers, constantly posed threats of dispersal, until the morning of April 1 when police and government authorities did not heed appeals for negotiation. The police advanced, broke the protesters’ line and hit them with truncheons and batons, water from firetrucks and bullets.
Upon the initiative of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, KARAPATAN, and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the National Fact Finding and Humanitarian Mission (NFHM), was conducted in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato from April 4-6, 2016, three days after the April 1 violent dispersal of the farmers’ rally. The NFHM was coordinated, planned and conducted with the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous People and Peasants (SAGIPP), and the regional chapters of Bayan, KARAPATAN and KMP in Southern Mindanao. The NFHM was also coordinated with and supported by the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and the United Methodist Church.
The members of the NFHM, together with members of local groups and institutions in North Cotabato and Southern Mindanao, visited the site of the incident, talked to the families of those who were killed, interviewed the wounded, met with police officials, visited and interviewed those illegally arrested and the farmers seeking sanctuary at the Spottswood Methodist Mission Center, and conducted photo-video documentation of the area. Victims willingly executed sworn statements describing their experiences and ordeals before during and after the April 1, 2016 incident.
The NFHM was able to retrace the series of events before, during and after the April 1 dispersal. A detailed chronology of the incident is included in the full text of the final report.
•The farmers’ demands and protest actions against the government – to demand for immediate relief and a clear plan to mitigate the effects of the drought, and – were legitimate, reasonable and urgent.
•State security forces, with the approval of, if not direct orders from top civilian authorities, deliberately and murderously attacked the protesters, grossly violating the farmers’ civil and political rights, as well as the right to religious freedom of the United Methodist Church.
•Continuing acts of harassments were observed to have been committed by police, military and civilian officials to pave the way for a cover-up on the accountability of State security forces, local and national government officials.
•The National Government and the Provincial Government is accountable and negligent in providing relief to the drought-affected farmers, as well as in the misappropriation of calamity funds and most of all, in the violent dispersal of the farmers’ protest.
1. The provincial government of North Cotabato and the Department of Agriculture should immediately release the calamity fund to the farmers and their families.
2. Gov. Taliño-Mendoza and other government officials should undergo investigation for possible misappropriation of the calamity funds.
3. Pres. Benigno Aquino and Sec. Proceso Alcala should be investigated and prosecuted for their negligence and failure to put up appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon, and in providing assistance to those affected.
4. Investigate and prosecute Pres. Benigno Aquino, the Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez, PNP Regional Director for Region 12 Noel Armilla, PNP Acting Deputy Regional Director for Operations (Region 12) PSSupt. Roberto Badian, Gov. Taliño-Mendoza, North Cotabato Provincial Director P/Supt. Alexander Tagum, Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista, Kidapawan Police Chief P/Insp. John Calinga, a certain Lt. Col. Birrey, Ground Commander of the PNP Strike Force, Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, Battalion Commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army, and Col. Ronald Villanueva, 1002nd Brigade Commander, 10th Infantry Division-Philippine Army, and the different police and military officers of the different police and military units operating in Region 12, as well as officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Agriculture, for their participation and complicity in the violent dispersal of the farmers on April 1, 2016, the various human rights violation committed as a result thereof, and other violations committed thereafter.
5. Police operatives on the ground responsible for killings, frustrated killings, illegal arrest and detention, and other criminal acts committed during and after the dispersal should be indicted and investigated.
6. Concerned government entities should immediately:
a. Release all detained farmers unconditionally, and other civilians who happened to be within the perimeter of the Spottswood UMC compound;
b. Pull-out police units assigned to monitor and restrict the interactions of the injured farmers recovering in hospitals;
c. Produce a written agreement that no retaliatory action shall be undertaken by the PNP, Philippine Army, personnel of Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, and other parties allied to the aforementioned groups, against the farmers who participated in the barricade, and the support groups and individuals who came to their aid.
7. The National and Provincial Governments should meet the demands of the protesting farmers:
a. Release of 15,000 sacks of rice as calamity assistance;
b. Provide subsidy of rice, seedlings, fertilizers, and pesticides until the drought ends;
c. Increase of farmgate prices of agricultural products;
d. The pull-out of military troops in their communities;
e. The disbandment of paramilitary groups in North Cotabato.
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.
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