LEFTIST groups lambasted President Benigno Aquino III Friday for blaming protest organizers for the April 1 dispersal in Kidapawan City in which police shot dead two farmers, and said unrest would spread among those suffering from drought because of his apathy and ineptitude.
In an interview with reporters in Lipa City, Batangas, Aquino said he was still awaiting the results of an investigation into the incident, but said it appeared that an organized group duped people from different places into believing that they would receive rice from the government by joining the mass action.
“It seems that somebody organized this to a create violence. That is what we need to investigate,” President Aquino said. “They did this to exploit the people.”
He said the Justice department would set free those who were duped into joining the rally, but said he felt it was not justified for the hungry farmers to block the main highway or to attack the police when they tried to disperse them.
The actions of authorities to disperse the protesters were lawful since the activists did not secure permits for the rally, he said—but did not comment on why police at the rally were carrying M-16 rifles in violation of standard crowd control procedures.
Aquino’s remarks triggered outrage among leftist lawmakers and militant groups.
“After three weeks of having no definitive statement on the Kidapawan issue, Aquino is now presenting a monstrous lie that washes blood off the hands of the police, the North Cotabato government and the national government itself who are otherwise the ones being held variously accountable by strong public opinion and evidence culled from at least one national fact finding mission and the ongoing Senate investigation,” said Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap.
Hicap joined the militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in a protest in front of Aquino’s residence on Times Street, Quezon City, to denounce the Aquino administration’s poor handling of the Kidapawan incident.
Hicap said that contrary to the President’s statement, “by all factual, moral and historical accounting, it is the Aquino regime itself that should be held responsible for the bloody police dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan.”
Hicap said Aquino’s statement not only absolves the PNP and the North Cotabato government but strongly suggests an impending crackdown against efforts of peasant and civil society groups.
“The public should condemn Aquino’s lies that are desperately intended to save his administration from any culpability in the Kidapawan massacre and to justify and escalate the government’s attacks against the rights of the peasants and the people,” Hicap said.
The Times Street protest also coincided with the fourth year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to distribute to the farmers the Cojuangco-Aquino owned and controlled Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, which Anakpawis asserts has not yet been carried out.
“The image of Aquino’s bloody hands in the Kidapawan massacre becomes even more stark especially as we remember that his Cojuangco-Aquino clan still controls thousands of hectares of land in Tarlac and continues to harass farm workers there and that there has not yet been a single perpetrator of the 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre punished,” Hicap said.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes also denounced the President’s statements.
“By laying the blame for the Kidapawan violence on the protesting farmers, Noynoy Aquino has officially sanctioned the grand cover up of the massive human rights violations that took place before and during April 1,” he said. “By presidential pronouncement, Aquino has absolved the entire government, including the PNP and the North Cotabato LGU from any wrongdoing. Aquino is now sending the message to his officials that tampering with evidence, producing false witnesses and harassing farmer survivors is acceptable. Aquino has made it crystal clear that justice cannot be achieved under a haciendero regime. The landlord president has zero sympathy for farmers. For him, Kidapawan and Luisita are just about the same.”
The KMP, citing escalating protests in Mindanao, attacked the administration’s record.
More than 3,000 farmers held a protest at the Department of Agriculture Region 12 Sub Office in Koronadal City in South Cotabato, more than 2,000 farmers are in Cagayan De Oro, and 5,000 more joined mass actions in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao, said KMP chairman Rafael Mariano.
“We reiterate our calls on farmers across the country to intensify protests against hunger. The worsening hunger that farmers are experiencing in the face of drought clearly demonstrate the haciendero Aquino government ‘s apathy against farmers and total ineptitude,” said KMP chair Rafael Mariano.
“Until now, Aquino and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala shamelessly reject starving farmers demand for food aid and direct release of calamity funds to victims. Instead of addressing farmers demand, Aquino and Alcala are busy obscuring and covering up the issues of prolonged drought, hunger, and the government’s criminal negligence,” Mariano said.
He said “the famine suffered by the Filipino peasantry today betrays the irony that the landless tillers themselves have nothing to eat while parasitic big landlords like the President and his gang of thieves like Alcala feasts over billions of pesos of El Niño funds.”
“Worse, it reveals the day-to-day exploitation and oppression suffered by landless tillers. It is a testament to the reality of forced exaction of agricultural surpluses from the people behind the plow,” Mariano said.
The KMP warned that Aquino’s continuing refusal to give the farmers’ demand for food aid in the face of the prolonged drought is now leading to a “spillover of peasants protest in the Luzon.”
“Intensified protest actions nationwide should be the Filipino peasantry’s response to Aquino’s continuing rejection of our demands and all presidential aspirants’ obvious political posturing and lack of concrete answers to our demand,” the KMP leader said.
Also on Friday, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate demanded that the government account for the P19 billion fund that was allocated to address the crisis in drought-affected areas of the country.
“Last December, President Aquino, approved P19 billion to implement the Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño, or RAIN. Yet, vast tracts of farmlands are now arid or scorched-dry from the drought. Where is that billions now?” Zarate said.
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