CHR report on Kidapawan dispersal muddles legitimacy of farmers’ protest – Karapatan

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 June) — The report of the Commission on Human Rights on the bloody dispersal of protesters in Kidapawan City two months ago “parroted” attempts by government “to obfuscate the issue raised by the farmers by equally blaming the protesters,” the human rights group Karapatan said in a statement Thursday.

“By doing this, the CHR muddled the legitimacy of the farmers’ protest. It also justifies the State’s use of force and in the killing, illegal arrest and other rights violations against the protesting farmers. It is eerily silent on the regime’s numerous efforts to cover up these violations,” the statement added.

In a report dated May 27 but posted on its website on May 30, CHR said police used excessive force and fired the first shot during the dispersal of protesting farmers on April 1.

But aside from the authorities the report also blamed the organizers for having“induced” some of the protesters to advance their agenda.

The carnage left two protesters dead, two police officers injured and dozens wounded.

Days before the dispersal some 4,000 farmers massed in Kidapawan to demand rice assistance from the provincial government, saying their crops had been devastated by the prolonged El Nino phenomenon. They barricaded a portion of the Davao-Cotabato highway.

‘No deceit’

Karapatan said the rally organizers led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas used no deceit in asking the farmers to join the protest.

“In fact the organization has correctly led the farmers in asserting their right to demand for calamity funds and to air their other legitimate concerns,” it said.

“The State instigated the violent dispersal. Why does the CHR blame the KMP for the violence committed against the farmers? Why blame the protesters who were clearly acting in self-defense against police truncheons and police guns and bullets?” it said.

“Victim blaming has been used by the BS Aquino regime to dodge accountability. It also belittles the capacity of the masses to air and fight for their legitimate demands,” it added.

The CHR report presented the events that led to the violent dispersal.

It cited too the “failure of the provincial government as duty-bearer to protect and promote the right to food and freedom from hunger of the farmers as rights-holders, as the root cause of the protest action.”

Organizers blamed

CHR said it found evidence that the organizers and “unknown persons” deceived some protesters into joining the protest action.

“The organizers were also found to have unnecessarily exposed the farmers-protesters to the violent consequences of their actions,” the State rights body said.

‘Excessive force’

The report said police violated their operations manual by using excessive force, and evidence showed they “fired the first shot.”

“Worse, the arrest and detention of farmers-protesters were attended by excessive and unjustified force, which must be investigated and responsible persons, prosecuted,” it said.

It added that the public prosecutors of Cotabato “failed to properly exercise their mandate in determining probable cause in the arrest of the 81 farmers by the police in the aftermath of the protest.”

“Had the inquest prosecutors been more discerning, they [w]ould have easily established the unlikelihood of pregnant women and senior citizens assaulting police officer[s].” (MindaNews)