AFTER a week of silence, President Benigno Aquino III finally addressed the controversy of the deadly dispersal of 6,000 drought-stricken farmers who set up a barricade in Kidapawan City to protest government inaction and demand food aid.
But the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas on Saturday dismissed Aquino’s explanation as “stupid and cheap” and accused the President of “noynoying,” or pretending to be busy while doing nothing.
Speaking at a Liberal Party campaign rally at the Makati Coliseum Friday night, Aquino said he learned of the farmers’ protest in Kidapawan City only on April 1, or two days after The Standard first published the story along with other online news outlets.
He said he was in Cavite for the turnover of a newly-built school building and a Liberal Party campaign rally for the administration standard bearer Manuel Roxas II.
“On our way home to Manila, [Interior and Local Government] Secretary Mel [Senen] Sarmiento mentioned he was to fly to Kidapawan the next day so I asked, “Anong gagawin mo sa Kidapawan [What are you going to do in Kidapawan]?” Aquino said in his speech.
“The truth is, that was the first time I’ve heard there was a barricade that blocked the highway in Kidapawan and a violent dispersal
took place,” Aquino said, apparently unaware that the highway linking Cotabato and Davao had been blockaded for two days.
However, Aquino claimed that he came down with the flu on the evening of April 1 and his condition was aggravated by a bum stomach the following day, so his doctor ordered him to bed.
He claimed he wanted to resolve the Kidapawan situation and immediately sought a meeting with concerned officials that weekend.
A separate meeting with government officials about the April 2 power outage at the Naia Terminal 3 was also sought by the President last Sunday, April 3, he said.
The two meetings, however, were pushed back to Monday, April 4, since the officials were not yet ready to give their briefings, Aquino said.
“Our people only have Sunday to rest but I was really eager to start resolving all these incidents,” Aquino said.
But Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. reported back to him and said concerned but unidentified officials were not ready to give him a briefing, so Aquino moved the meeting on Monday.
“You know, my work is really 24/7, 365 days so sometimes even my body already complains,” Aquino said without disclosing what became of the meeting that was moved to Monday, April 4.
But the day after Aquino’s explanation, KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano was not convinced at Aquino’s justification only shows incompetence and apathy to the plight of the people.
“Finally, after a week, the President broke his silence on the Kidapawan carnage. However, the President’s statement confirmed that he was ‘Noynoying’ all along,” said KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano.
“The haciendero President’s justification is a substantiation of sheer incompetence and apathy, coupled with brazen lies and cheap alibi,” Mariano added.
“Aquino’s statement betrays his weak leadership, indecisiveness, and downright stupidity,” Mariano said.
Mariano noted that as of Saturday, a week after Aquino supposedly learned of the incident, not one sack of rice has been distributed to the drought-hit farmers, who demanded 15,000 sacks of rice for as many farmer-families to alleviate their hunger.
The farmers received 700 sacks of rice from private donors.
“It took Aquino two days to call for a meeting that he himself postponed because according to the President, ‘if they are not ready, nothing will come out of that meeting and the gathering of data will further be delayed.’ Isn’t that stupid?” Mariano asked.
“This confirms that even after being informed of the violent dispersal, the President tolerated the killings and harassments, and continuously tolerates the starvation, illegal arrest and detention of farmers,” said the KMP leader, whose members included those who survived the violently dispersed barricade.
“Until now, Aquino is silent on the impact of the prolonged drought and hunger, the just, legitimate, and moral demand for food aid, and the calls for justice,” Mariano stressed.
The KMP called on farmers and the people to continue seeking justice for the victims of Kidapawan violent dispersal and hold President Aquino and all the perpetrators accountable
“The impunity promoted by Aquino underscores his accountability on the Kidapawan carnage. The President is allowing farmers to starve and die of hunger. He is guilty of incompetence, criminal negligence, and genocide,” Mariano said.
“Aquino’s days are numbered. He will pay dearly for his crimes against the peasantry,” Mariano warned.
As this developed, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate called on authorities for the immediate release on “humanitarian grounds” of elderly and minor detainees nabbed by police in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.
“This is not valor. This is shameful. The detention of the pregnant, elderly, and minors and charging them as perpetrators of the violence in Kidapawan is both ludicrous and infuriating,” the Mindanao-based solon said.
“Perhaps they were most defenseless and vulnerable against the violence of the police forces that’s why they can easily throw them in jail. We demand their immediate release even on humanitarian grounds,” Zarate said.
He said the detention of the elderly and minors only proves the lies being peddled by the government and its apologist to cover up the carnage.
“When we look at these people whom the police claimed instigated and caused that bloodbath, we can see through the lies and black propaganda hurled against the hungry farmers. Are these the violent, armed rebels that the police harped about? Elderly women and children? It is, again, ridiculous. No one with an iota of common sense would buy that blatant lie,” Zarate pointed out.
“The President’s ignorance of the hunger situation of his constituents is unacceptable as it is stupidity,” Zarate said.
“Our hungry farmers have been subjected to multiple injustices: they were ignored despite their dire need for food, their ranks and cause vilified, they were peppered with bullets, and then thrown in jail. These injustices against the Kidapawan farmers must be stopped,” he said.
“In sharp contrast to what we celebrate today – the acts of bravery and sacrifices of our forebears in defending our country and protecting our people – the police officers and local officials involved in the Kidapawan carnage are a shameful and dreadful embarrassment of the proud history of our heroes,” Zarate said.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.