Nat’l probe team sees visible signs of Aquino gov’t cover-up in Kidapawan violent dispersal


Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General (+639173162831)

Antonio Flores, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Secretary General (+639212726682)

Atty. Ephraim Cortez, National Union of People’s Lawyers (+639175465798)

Rev. Marie Sol Villalon, Promotion of Church People’s Response (+639087439053)

“In a desperate attempt to dodge accountability, the Aquino government is pulling all stops on the ground to cover-up the role of the Philippine National Police, the local government units and the powers-that-be in the violent dispersal of the farmers’ protest action in Kidapawan,” said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan, and one of the co-heads of the delegation of the National Fact Finding Mission (NFFM) in Kidapawan City.

​The 27-member NFFM delegation, including doctors, lawyers, paralegals, and counselors, is currently on its 2nd day of its probe in Kidapawan City. They documented cases of human rights violations in relation to the April 1 violent dispersal, when they visited the hospitals in Kidapawan where injured farmers and other individuals were brought and are confined; they also talked to the 74 individuals illegally arrested and are currently detained at the Kidapawan Gym and the Kidapawan City Convention Center. They also interviewed the farmers within the Spotswood Methodist Center of the United Methodist Church and the 204 farmers from Makilala who were blocked and disallowed entry by the PNP and AFP troops surrounding the church compound. Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus also joined the NFFM.

The NFFM cited various “maneuvers” by the PNP and the local government to destroy evidence by clearing the crime scene through burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters during and after the dispersal; and preventing paralegals and quick reaction teams from leaving the Spotswood compound to gather important details and documentation on the incident and provide emergency support to the victims and their families.

Atty. Ephraim Cortez, Assistant Secretary General for Legal Services of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and one of the members of the delegation, said members of the NFFM were also barred by some hospital officials from accessing victims confined in their facilities, reportedly in compliance to the directive of the local government.

While NFFM members experience these kinds of restrictions, they noted the presence of various municipal Dept. of Social Work and Development (DSWD) social workers talking to detainees without the presence of their counsels. Cortez said this is violation of Republic Act 7438, as he expressed fears that these moves are meant to coerce and influence the victims to absolve the police from accountability.

Undeclared martial law in Kidapawan intended to pave way for cover-up

“Armoured personnel carrier (APC) tanks along the road, military and police encampment within the United Methodist Church (UMC) compound, and police in full battle gear roving the hospitals where farmer-victims are confined and places where farmers who were illegally arrested and currently detained – these are all clear and visible signs, among many others, of a state of undeclared martial law in Kidapawan,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Secretary General Antonio Flores, who also co-heads the NFFM delegation.

Yesterday, NFFM members saw at least three APC tanks in Makilala and roving tanks in Kidapawan City. At least twenty five (25) elements of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, most with long firearms, were seen in the vicinity of the hospitals and just outside the rooms where the farmer-victims were confined. At least six victims/injured individuals in two hospitals were all charged with direct assault. There were also at least 46 police surrounding the Kidapawan Gym and the Kidapawan City Convention Center.

This morning, NFFM delegates and nuns successfully negotiated for the entry of the 204 farmers from Makilala in the UMC compound, after they were barred from entering the church compound and 3-day stay along the road opposite the UMC.

“It is preposterous that a church compound – a sanctuary for many victims and those seeking the kind intervention of the Church – has been made into a military/police camp since April 1. It is grossly illegal for the police to have control and prerogative on who enters the church compound, and have it surrounded with at least 200 personnel with long firearms. It is highly questionable that at least 200 elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion have encamped within the UMC compound since April,” said NFFM delegate Rev. Marie Sol Villalon, Co-Chair of the Promotion of Church People’s Response.

The NFFM is currently collating all testimonies and figures gathered since yesterday. Members of the delegation are set to release the full findings and recommendations of the NFFM tomorrow.

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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.