Kidapawan City: no longer a venue of protest actions

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 04 October) —   The image of thousands of farmers barricading the national highway in Kidapawan City on Mach30 to April 1, 2016, is still remembered to this day across the country.

Farmers from various parts of North Cotabato province, among them Lumads (Indigenous Peoples), staged the mass action to demand, among others, the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as calamity assistance to drought-affected farmers.

Violence struck during the dispersal of protesters on April 1. Two farmers were killed and 179 protesters and police were injured.  A Senate probe was held in Davao City.

Farmers and members of militant groups from seven towns and one city in North Cotabato block a portion of the Davao-Cotabato highway in Kidapawan City on March 30, 2016. The protesters (around 5,000 according to organizers and estimated at 3,000 by the police) are demanding, among others, the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as calamity assistance. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Fast forward 2020. Kidapawan City, once the convergence point for protesters from the hinterlands of Arakan,  Antipas, President Roxas, Makilala, and Magpet, is quiet. No protest action in the province, even if virtual,  greeted the passage of the Anti-Terror bill in June and the President’s signing into law in July.

Protest actions in the late 1990s were led by the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC).

The ASLPC was organized in the late1990s to serve as the “voice of the voiceless Lumads.”

ASLPC was carved out from Task Force Apo Sandawa (TFAS), the group that led the protests against the establishment of a geothermal power plant on Mt. Apo from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

Despite their protests, the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) proceeded with the project.

In 2008, the Philippine government sold the Mount Apo geothermal power plants to Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

The ASLPC, on the other hand, continued its advocacy to serve and protect the  Lumads’ interests.

In 2010, the group was handled by Norma Capuyan, a Manobo.  But Capuyan was slapped with several criminal charges – from murder to land grabbing issues – and reportedly left the city.

She was also accused of supporting the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines – the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in the area.

Capuyan denied the allegations. In 2016, she was part of the delegation of the Lakbay Lumad USA Tour to talk about the struggles and demands of the Lumads.

EO 70

In December 2018, when President Duterte issued Executive Order Number 70 which created the National Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ECLAC), the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) intensified their manhunt against leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army or what the military refers to as “CNN.”

This led to the arrest of several NPA leaders in North Cotabato, including NPA Front 51 Finance Officer Alon, NPA Front 51 Commander Jazmin, Ka Inday, and the killing of Ka Chuy, an NPA leader whose tasks included the “white areas” of Kidapawan City, President Roxas, and Magpet.

Commander Jazmin’s real name, according to court records, is Rachel Daguman Cortez.  She was arrested in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur on September 27, 2019.

Mindaley Satentes-Genotiva, also known as Kumander Karla, was arrested on October 20, 2019, in Kidapawan City.

On February 20, this year, government forces killed NPA Front 51 top leader known as Commander Choi whose real name is Eduardo Lembang Arnado.

With the arrests and killing of NPA leaders and the intensified implementation of EO 70, Lumad groups in North Cotabato that were deemed by government as “hostile,” ceased to operate openly in the city.

Human rights group like Karapatan North Cotabato no longer has a presence in the city.

Karapatan North Cotabato’s last social media post was  on February 5, 2018, where it reported having sent a quick response team to Datu Ladayon in Arakan on January 31 to attend to the cadaver of Ricky Ulado of the Tinanaon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (TiKuLPA), who was killed allegedly by suspected soldiers.

Ulado was driving his motorcycle with a passenger, heading towards Barangay Dau Ladayon on January 28 “when they were chased by two armed men in two single motorcylces” who shot Ulado several times while his passenger was wounded, Karapatan North Cotabato said.

It said Ulados’ family was scared of going to the cemetery to dig his grave because of the presence of the military there.  Ulado was buried by his family and the QRT.

Despite the seeming silence of progressive Lumad groups, the military and police have continued urging people in NPA-influenced areas to declare the NPA “persona non grata.”  (Malu Cadelina-Manar / MindaNews)