Government answers farmers’ demands not with food aid but bullets

This is in response to the article “Cops, farmers clash in Kidapawan; 2 dead” of The Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 2, 2016)

photo credits to Kilab Multimedia

The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) vehemently condemns the brutal dispersal of the peasant barricade in Kidapawan which resulted in three deaths and injured more than a hundred protesters.

The incident is a clear illustration of this government’s failure to answer even the most basic needs of its people. The peasant sector comprises the majority of the country’s population. They produce the food we eat, yet when they are the ones suffering from hunger and are in dire need of food, state forces rain bullets on them and blast them with fire hoses.

Since January this year, the provincial government of North Cotabato declared their province under a state of calamity. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan filed a resolution declaring that the damage due to El Niño has already affected 27,558.55 hectares of agricultural lands while damages of high-value crops is estimated at P238,017,916.35, among them rice, corn, coconut, cacao, and coffee. Because of the declaration, the provincial government can access 5% of its calamity fund.

But, until March, the provincial government was still unable or rather, unwilling, to give the food aid due to the farmers. Thus, armed with growling stomachs, the 6,000 Kidapawan farmers marched on and barricaded the highway. Clearly, the provincial government itself must be blame for the protest. If only Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza ordered the rice sacks to be released earlier, then the farmers would have no reason to protest in the first place.

What is even more deplorable is the continued harassment of not only the farmers who protested, but also of their supporters. The United Methodist Church (UMC) that became the sanctuary of the protesting farmers is being surrounded by policemen. Their bishop even received a letter from Governor Mendoza saying that she will file charges against him for protecting the protesters. And the three hundred farmers from nearby towns of Kidapawan who came to the UMC to show their support were prevented from going to the Church. These actions by the local government are excessive and inhumane. Governor Mendoza has no right to be a public servant.

The Kidapawan massacre is but one of the many massacres in the Philippines which involved peasants. There were the Mendiola Massacre in 1987 and the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004. These events depict the continuing semi-feudal economy of the country and the repressive character of the state.

The government does not recognize the fact that the right to food is a basic human right. It treats food as a privilege of those who have the purchasing power.

So what kind of government is this that chooses to harass and kill its farmers instead of giving them food?

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