For Immediate Release
April 3, 2016
Ruthie Arroyo, Chairperson, Anakbayan New Jersey
Ana Robelo, Deputy Secretary General, Anakbayan New Jersey
(470) 309-2265, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bigas Hindi Bala! Rice Not Bullets! Hold Aquino Accountable!
Anakbayan New Jersey vehemently condemns the violent and bloody dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). On April 1st, government troops opened fire on 6,000 unarmed farmers and Lumad who barricaded the Cotabato-Davao national highway to demand the release of 15,000 sacks of rice and immediate government assistance for the drought following El Niño. Pedro Arnado, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Cotabato chapter, stated they barricaded the region because they wanted drought relief; the Cotabato region has been in drought conditions for the last seven months.
We stand with the farmers and the Lumad in asserting their right to protest and to expose the negligence of the Philippine government — specifically the failure of Governor of Cotabato Lala Mendoza who in the face of environmental disaster withheld relief and did not prepare or respond to meet the needs of her constituents. The protesting farmers were only asking for the government to fulfill its duties to help the people during a calamity.
When the people ask for immediate relief assistance, they should not be met with bullets. Currently, 3 have been confirmed dead: Rotello Daelto from Brgy. Binoongan, Arakan municipality; Victor Lumandang from Brgy. Alobayon, a member of Arakan Peasant Progressive Organization (APPO); and 30-year-old Enrico Pabrica from Kidapawan City, who was a Magpet. Member of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Paghiusa (ASLPC). In addition, 2 women are proclaimed dead whose identities have not been confirmed. 116 have been injured; 89 are missing; 2 tortured; and at least 78 are detained. The PNP then surrounded the United Methodist Church where many retreated seeking refuge and blocked the wounded from going to the hospital. The PNP cut off the power. Then, on April 2nd, they issued a search warrant on cover of looking for a firearm in the church, citing claims that protesters fired the first shot. However, no firearm was found.
The PNP is only further terrorizing the people and looking for a cover up. The Department of Interior and Local Government even awarded medals to the PNP who shot at the farmers. This violence is being glorified. However, we know that this is the same government and bureaucracy that own the majority of land and exploit the same farmers in endless cycles of debt to profit from their labor and export their crops. This is not the first time that Aquino has failed to feed the people. This is the same class of landlord families that responded to the farmers of Hacienda Luisita — owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family — calling for just wages in 2004 with military force and violence. This is the same government that militarizes Mindanao and kills and displaces the Lumad to back the extraction of mineral resources to multinational corporations and the United States’ second front of the war on terror. This is the same government that abandoned the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and countless past environmental disasters being fueled by global capitalism. They used relief money to line their pockets then too. This is the same government that promised land reform under Cory Aquino’s presidency, in the Mendiola massacre — where 13 farmers were killed and 39 were wounded — who marched on the Mendiola bridge calling for genuine agrarian reform in 1987.
Anakbayan New Jersey demands immediate relief and the delivery of 15,000 sacks of rice to North Cotabato farmers and Lumad. President Aquino, Governor Lala Mendoza, and the PNP must be held accountable for their criminal acts contributing to the starvation and violent attacks on the protestors. The militarized violence and starvation of those affected by El Nino must end! End the militarization and displacement of Lumad on their ancestral lands! The people must win genuine agrarian reform that redistributes the land and allows those who work it to live with dignity. In this vein, we ask that you join us on Monday, April 4th at the Philippine Consulate at 5:30 PM to show your indignation of the atrocities that have been taking place in North Cotobato over the past few days. Affirm that farmers’ basic rights and welfare should be upheld — especially in the face of impunity!
JUSTICE FOR THE NORTH COTABATO FARMERS!
BIGAS HINDI BALA! RICE NOT BULLETS!
STOP LUMAD KILLINGS!
FIGHT FOR GENUINE AGRARIAN REFORM!