A day before the violent dispersal of Kidapawan farmers, negotiations were held between the Kidapawan provincial government and farmer leaders representing the protesters. The groups have occupied the main highway since March 30 and were demanding the release of rice support and the much-needed calamity funds.
During the negotiations, the farmers were told that the local government could only release 3 kilos of rice for each farmer and that they should leave Kidapawan because the rice will be distributed via the municipal mayors. ln other words, the government wanted the protesters to leave with hardly anything.
Three kilos was allegedly the only amount allowed by the Commission on Audit during the election period. This, despite the fact a state of calamity had already been declared by the provincial governor. No agreement was reached that day.
The following morning, April 1, 10am, the governor again reportedly offered a new round of negotiations through her staff who talked to a Catholic priest. The priest informed the protesters who were of course open to resuming negotiations. The priest also informed protesters that the DSWD would be coming in to get the children.
It was at this time that the police told the protesters to disperse. They were given 5 minutes to comply. Again leaders tried to reason with the Kidapawan police, to no avail. The violent dispersal ensued.Shots were fired on unarmed protesters.
So what happened to the offer of another round of negotiations? Was it all a ruse? We do not know why, despite an apparent effort to open negotiations, the violent dispersal pushed through upon orders of the provincial governor herself.
Laging kinakatwiran na mahigpit ang COA; pero wagas naman kung gamitin ang pondong publiko para sa pangangampanya. Unbelievable.
May bigas ang gobyerno. I talked to an NFA official who admitted that there was sufficient rice supply with the local DSWD. So why on earth do they not distribute it when the beneficiaries are already there outside protesting? No sense of urgency? The need to follow COA guidelines? It has to be through the mayors? There seems to be no end to the reasons why they WON’T distribute the rice to those who needed it most and who were already there.
The incident in Kidapawan highlights government’s failure to help farmers not just in Mindanao but in other drought-affected areas. It is high time to demand adequate government support for all farmers nationwide faced with the disastrous effects of the El Nino.
Food. Justice. These are the most basic and urgent demands. From Kidapawan to the rest of the country.