BRGY. MALIBATUAN, Arakan, Cotabato (MindaNews/06 April) — One of the farmers who joined last week’s protest action in Kidapawan City that ended in a bloody dispersal by police died from heat stroke Monday dawn.
Lito Salon, 52, a member of the Manobo tribe, was rushed to a hospital in Antipas town, North Cotabato on midnight Sunday after he suffered difficulty in breathing but died shortly after, his brother Allan Salon said Tuesday.
Relatives and neighbors attend the wake of Manobo farmer Lito Salon at their house in Brgy Malibatuan, Arakan, North Cotabato on Tuesday, April 5. Allan, Lito’s brother said they went to Kidapawan March 29, thinking they would get a sack of rice each. They returned home March 31, a day before the violent dispersal, after Lito complained of headache and back pains. Lito’s wife Margarita said her husband was rushed to the Antipas District hospital on April 3 and died on April 4. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
He joined farmers who barricaded a portion of the Cotabato-Davao highway to demand 15,000 sacks of rice from the provincial government. The farmers said they needed help from government due to the hardships caused by the long dry spell or El Nino phenomenon.
Allan said he and Lito went to Kidapawan on Tuesday morning expecting to receive rice that same day but they stayed on the streets for two nights. They decided to go home empty-handed on Thursday after his brother complained of headache and back pains on Wednesday afternoon.
He said leaders of the Lumad group Tikulpa identified only as Galang, Magyaw, and Eming asked them to join the picket to get a sack of rice, but added they didn’t know they would end up blocking the road.
“Giingnan lang me nga mag-picket, pero wala ko kasabot anang picket. Akong pagkahibalo lang mag-linya lang me sa kalsada og mosingit ug ‘tabang nga bugas’. Wala idea atngan ang kalsada (We were just told that we would hold a picket but I did not know what a picket was. All I know was we would line in the street and shout ‘give us rice’). We had no idea that we would block the highway),” he said
Allan said they were lured to go because his and his brother’s farms that they planted with banana, corn and rubber had bee damaged by the El Nino and rat infestation.
He recalled that two dump trucks ferried the farmers from this barangay to Kidapawan. They arrived on Tuesday last week.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Anakpawis partylist first nominee Ariel Casilao said there was no intent to deceive the farmers and that it was explained to them that the rally was intended to pressure North Cotabato governor Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Taliño Mendoza to release the rice.
The Salon brothers, along with other farmers, were exposed under extreme heat of the sun as they blocked the road day in and day out.
At night, he and his brother would sleep on the roadside, with some leaves and a sack to cover the ground.
“Maski gabie na init gihapun ang salog. Maong na heat stroke siya (Even during the night, the ground was still hot. This might be the reason why he suffered from heat stroke),” he said.
Allan and Lito returned home a day before the violent dispersal happened at past 10 a.m. on Friday.
“Naa gyud koy pagbasol kung wala me niadto didto wala untay mahitabo (I regret going there because if we did not go, nothing bad would have happened),” Allan said.
Margareta Salon, 52, wife of Lito, was in tears as she sat beside the coffin of her husband at their small house while recalling the day he left for Kidapawan.
“Wala ko niya gisugtan nga mouban (He did not allow me to go with them),” she said.
Lito left behind four children: Marilou, 28; Charlie, 22; Marites, 22; and Sarmiento, 13.
Margarita said she is still hoping they would get their share of the rice, as they ran out of stock to sustain them until after El Nino.
Casilao said that farmers, who left the Spottswood Methodist Center where they have sought refuge since Friday last week, will just have to coordinate with their community leaders to receive their share of the rice.
He said they have local organizations in different barangays that keep a record of all farmers who suffered from the drought.
Three farmers died and scores of others when policemen dispersed the barricade on Friday. Some policemen were also injured. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)