MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 April) — The police may have used “unnecessary lethal force” in breaking up a barricade by farmers in Kidapawan City on April 1, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a press release Monday.
“The police used batons and guns against the protesters, including women and children, some of whom threw rocks at the police,” HRW said.
“The Philippine government needs to determine why the police found it necessary to fire at protesters,” the statement quoted Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at HRW as saying. “Some protesters were throwing stones, but lethal force may only be used as a last resort to save lives.”
Police officials justified the use of firearms saying they received reports that some of the protesters who numbered around 5,000 were armed.
However, the police have yet to show proof of such claim.
Since March 28, the farmers had massed in Kidapawan to demand rice subsidy from the North Cotabato provincial government, as the dry spell had damaged their crops. On March 30, they blocked a portion of the Cotabato-Davao highway.
Members of a Special Weapons and Tactics unit were then sent to deal with the protesters resulting in a violent dispersal that left two farmers killed and scores of others injured. Police said dozens of their officers were also hurt.
The incident prompted separate investigations by the Philippine National Police, Senate, and Commission on Human Rights.
“In Kidapawan, a difficult situation got out of control,” Kine said. “Transparent and impartial investigations are needed to find out what went wrong, who should be held accountable, and what is needed to restore trust in the police.” (MindaNews)