THE Sanlakas coalition on Sunday slammed President Benigno Aquino III for taking a week to respond to the bloody dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City, in which police shot dead two protesters, saying this was a sign of his incompetence.
The President broke his silence on the Kidapawan violence on Friday, saying he learned of the four-day protest only on April 1, the day it was violently dispersed. A bout of flu and “a bum stomach” kept him from acting on the crisis immediately, he added.
“Aquino’s statement is an admission of what we have long been suspecting, he indirectly admits to his incompetence and that of his Cabinet officials. His alibi falls short of what is the demanded by the office he holds but more importantly by the hunger and grief of our farmers in Mindanao,” said Aaron Pedrosa, secretary-general of Sanlakas coalition.
Sanlakas and other organizations joined Kalampag, a campaign to push for justice and aid for the farmers in Mindanao last Friday.
They demanded that the government release the P19 billion in El Niño mitigation funds as well as calamity and the standby quick response funds dispersed among various agencies.
“Aquino’s late response is in itself condemnable. But what is more frustrating despite being informed late was that he did not see the gravity of the wanton disregard for human rights by security forces. Not even an speck of sympathy for the hunger-driven farmers or the shooting of unarmed protestors, while he himself [sought] sympathy for being out on a cold for a day,” Pedrosa said.
“The outgoing resident of Malacañang is too dense and indifferent. After all, the Aquinos seem to be all too familiar with executing unarmed peasants after the Mendiola, Lupao and Hacianda Luisita massacres,” he added.
Pedrosa said Aquino’s insensitivity to the clamor of the farmers was evident when he did not take responsibility as commander-in-chief of the police and did not order an independent investigation to determine culpability in the shooting of unarmed protestors.
“Despite being late, Aquino still failed to issue marching orders to his Cabinet on how to resolve the climate-induced hunger in Mindanao and avert it from spreading to other provinces. He also did not expedite the release of necessary funds nor did he deploy additional personnel to assist the local government,” the Sanlakas leader said.
If indeed the President was out of the loop, the group also demanded that Aquino reprimand his alter-egos in the Cabinet and spokespersons for issuing irresponsible statements such as vilifying the protestors and claiming that the conditions in Cotabato were not as bad as it seemed.
Pedrosa also criticized Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento for issuing medals and citations to police officers who were directly responsible for the bloodshed on April 1, even without an independent and in-depth investigation on what transpired in Kidapawan.