[Attachment(s) from International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines included below]

STATEMENT
Divine Mercy Sunday, 2016

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the actions by the Philippine police and state authorities, that took place on Friday 1st April 2016 in Kidapawan City, alongside subsequent actions of both the police and the North Cotabato Governor, Lala Talino-Mendoza.

The farmers, in common with many throughout South East Asia, are suffering from the effects of El Niño. Their local governments declared a State of Calamity and funds were released to assist the farmers in January of this year. The farmers therefore, were simply asking for supplies of rice and assistance that were rightly due to them but which the local governments had failed to provide for one reason or another.

In desperation, the farmers gathered from their respective villages last Wednesday and blockaded the highway in the hope that this would persuade the government to give them the assistance that was rightly due to them. They brought families and children with them, rather than leave them at home. In spite of negotiations taking place, the farmers were denied their just demands and they would not disperse.

The police responded using various tactics in their attempt to disperse the crowd. The resort to using live ammunition, against such a gathering, was totally unjustifiable and is condemned in the strongest possible terms. Such action recalls past events such as those in Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita – dark episodes in the past that are now added to by the Massacre at Kidapawan City.

Lives were lost, many are injured, people were tortured, thousands are traumatised and refuge was sought in a neighbouring Methodist Church Compound. The Church was among others seeking to offer help to the wounded, the bereaved, the traumatised but was, itself, attacked for these actions by Governor Talino-Mendoza in a letter to the Bishop. Utility supplies to the church were cut off and the church premises were searched by the police ostensibly looking for weapons (of which none were found).

Other political leaders, trade unionists and concerned citizens sought to come to the assistance of the farmers and provide the rice for which they were so desperate – these attempts were, once again, frustrated by the State authorities under the malign leadership of the Governor.

There is also evidence of the harassment of journalists who have sought to ensure the world is aware of the atrocities that took place in Kidapawan City on Friday 1st April.

In solidarity with people of honour in the Philippines and throughout the world:

•We call for immediate and adequate support and relief to the farmers.

•We call for an enquiry into why the government funds provided for such relief last January had not been used for that purpose.

•We call fore a truly open and independent enquiry into the policing of this event and, most especially, into the use of live ammunition against a crowd composed of both families and young children and into the allegations of torture.

•We call for an explanation of why the state authorities continue to refuse to distribute relief goods to these farmers and their communities, and frustrate the efforts of those seeking to provide such support from their own resources.

• Along with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), other concerned churches and organizations, we call on the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to honour churches being safe havens for all people, and to immediately allow church and NGO workers free movement, to search for those who are still missing and to take the wounded to hospitals.

•We demand that those responsible for the outrageous state actions that day be brought to justice and pay for their actions both in crowd dispersal and what happened subsequently.

The events of Friday 1st April mark yet another dark day in the responses of those in authority, at both local and national level, to the genuine aspirations and rightful demands of the poorest members of society. These events have, once again, shown the inability of those who hold power and authority to truly understand and respond with empathy to the just demands of farmers and other workers who live in situations of life-threatening poverty.

The Reverend Canon Barry Naylor

Chairperson, Global Council
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

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