April 18, 2016
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, +63918-9790580
Karapatan to UN: Probe violent dispersal, illegal arrest of Kidapawan farmers
“We believe that the Philippine 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 protected by the Philippine Constitution, law and various international covenants and instruments to which the Philippine Government is a signatory,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Karapatan, through letters to United Nations independent experts, brought to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council the killing, illegal arrest and detention, and other rights violations against the farmers in North Cotabato during and after the April 1 violent dispersal of 6,000 farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. Karapatan asked for an investigation on the rights abuses against the farmers through Mr. Maina Kai, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders; and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Karapatan also submitted the full report* of the National Factfinding and Humanitarian Mission (NFHM) conducted by the organization, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bayan on April 4-6, 2016 in Kidapawan. The report serves as a reference to the complaint filed.
Palabay said “it is important that the international community is made aware of these gross human rights violations against the farmers, with all the visible signs of cover-up on the accountability of the Aquino government and the Philippine National Police.” The NFFM cited various “maneuvers” by the PNP and the local government to destroy evidence by clearing the crime scene through the use of bulldozers and water cannons, burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters during and after the dispersal; and preventing paralegals and quick reaction teams from leaving the Spotswood Methodist Center to gather important details and documentation on the incident and provide emergency support to the victims and their families.
Karapatan also received initial reports that the family of slain Manobo farmer Darwin Sulang experienced threats and harassment from the Provincial Government, Philippine National police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. Ebao Sulang, father of Darwin, recounted the following incidents:
April 6 – North Cotabato Provincial Board Member Kelly Antao with Lito Palma of the Office of Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza went to the house of the Sulang family. They tried to convince the family not to file criminal charges against the Governor and the PNP and offered PhP100,000. The family refused the offer.
April 12 – At midnight, the Sulang family was disturbed by two unknown men walking around their house until 3 a.m., fearing the men were armed.
April 13 – Relatives of the Sulang family received news that members of the Philippine Army are looking for Ebao Sulang. The whole family immediately evacuated and sought refuge from Church and human rights groups.
“This is clearly part of the government’s underhanded moves to dissuade the family from pursuing countercharges,” Palabay stated.
Palabay also said that while the 82 illegally arrested and detained farmers have all been released on bail, as of yesterday April 16, trumped up charges of direct assault and frustrated homicide have yet to be dismissed. “The arrest and detention of the farmers – of those who were shot, pulled from the protesters’ ranks and tortured by the police, to the elderly and pregnant women farmers, to the mere bystanders – show the inhumanity and callousness of the BS Aquino government institutions on the plight of the farmers,” she stated.
Among the recommended actions stated in the NFHM report is the indictment and prosecution of all police operatives on the ground responsible for killings, frustrated killings, illegal arrest and detention, and other criminal acts committed during and after the dispersal. The groups also recommended the investigation and prosecution of the President, military and police generals, 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, the various human rights violation committed as a result thereof, and other violations committed thereafter.
*Copies of the NFHM Report are available upon request.
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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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.