Kidapawan dispersal: 94 officials face raps at Deputy Ombudsman

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 April) — Ninety-four police, military and local officials and Cabinet secretaries are facing charges before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao for their alleged role in the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City last April 1.

The complaints, filed on Monday by 18 farmers, include murder, frustrated and attempted murder, torture and physical injuries, illegal arrest and detention, said lawyer Joel Mahinay, chair of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao.

Mahinay said most of the complainants were among the 79 farmers who were detained in Kidapawan after the dispersal and released after posting bail over a week ago. They were accused of illegal assembly and direct assault on persons in authority.

The respondents are Secretaries Mel Senen Sarmiento of the Department of Interior and Local Government and Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Kidapawan mayor Joseph Evangelista, Philippine National Police director general Ricardo Marquez, 39th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, and former provincial police director Supt. Alexander Tagum.

Mahinay said they also want respondents to be held responsible for violations of Republic Act 9745 (Anti-Torture Law), RA 7438 (Rights of Accused), Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 (Public Assembly Act), Presidential Decree 1829 (Obstruction of Justice), and RA 671 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards).

He also called for an investigation for possible violations of RA 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,”for negligence and failure to put in place proper measures that could have mitigated the effects of El Nino and the possible misappropriation of the calamity funds.”

He said complaints were also filed against other police officers, including unidentified members of the Special Weapons and Tactics, and members of the Bureau of Fire Protection-12.

“The senate is requiring the PNP to identify those SWAT members,” he said.

“We also charged them with obstruction of justice because the police personnel cleaned up the area and violated the basic procedure on how to preserve the scene of the crime,” he added.

Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman said the complaints against police officers will be handled by the Deputy Ombudsman for military and law enforcement based in Manila.

Elman said they will conduct a fact-finding investigation and request results of the recent inquiries by the Senate and the Commission of Human Rights-12 on the dispersal.

“The office may have to ask the PNP to disclose the identities of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of some protesters,” he said.

A few days before the dispersal, some 4,000 farmers gathered in Kidapawan and barricades a portion of the Davao-Cotabato highway to demand rice assistance from the provincial government. They said they needed aid from government as the prolonged dry spell had destroyed their crops.

After the protesters and local officials failed to reach an agreement, police carried out a dispersal which turned bloody. Three farmers died and scores of others were wounded.

Police said they also suffered injuries as the protesters fought back.

Complainant Rodolfo Tano, 60, said he participated in the rally to ask for rice, as he no longer planted banana and corn in his farm due to the drought.

He said that during the dispersal he was hit by a bullet in his left leg before he went to the Spottswood Methodist Center to ask for help.

He was rushed to Midway Hospital in Kidapawan but he released four days after.

The bullet remained buried in his left leg, he said.

Lawyer Glocelito Jayma said the bullet belonged to an M-16 rifle based on the X-ray results. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)