2 farmers injured in dispersal
Two farmers who were part of a group seeking aid for the effects of the drought in North Cotabato died during a violent dispersal Friday.
ABS-CBN quoted Dr. Eva Rabaya, North Cotabato provincial health officer, as saying that one farmer died after being struck on the head with a rock while the second died of heat stroke.
The farmers have been barricading the Cotabato-Davao national highway for three days, demanding the release of 15,000 sacks of rice as subsidy to farmer families affected by the drought.
North Cotabato is the worst hit by the El Nino among the provinces in Mindanao.
After negotiations with protesters and an ultimatum, police dispersed the protesters while fire officers sprayed them with water.
Reports said 23 people from the government side were injured after some farmers threw stones at the police.
Some protesters were also admitted in hospitals.
ABS-CBN, quoting PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, said two police officers are under critical condition “due to head trauma, reportedly due to attacks initiated from the assembled crowd.”
Greenpeace condemned the violent dispersal, calling it “unmerciful and inhumane.”
“The farmers were merely trying to get the local government’s attention to their plight in the face of El Niño, with Mindanao being hardest hit and their families facing hunger for months already. Instead of assistance and food, what they got were water cannons, batons and gunshots,” said Leonora Lava, Senior Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“The government has been adequately forewarned by PAGASA about El Niño since 2015. The country has faced the impacts of El Nino in the past, especially the strong one in 1997-1998. Greenpeace has, in fact, called on the government and those vying for the presidency to lay down their immediate and long term response to this growing food and agriculture crises,” Lava said.
“We stand with the farmers, who are the producers of our food, in demanding justice. Those who are responsible for this senseless violence need to be held liable. The farmers are already helpless as it is with the current impacts of El Niño, but the government’s inaction and the brutal reaction to the protest are beyond excuse,” she added.
Politicians, including presidential bet and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, have also condemned the dispersal.