76 Kidapawan farmers released, 2 more to post bail
MANILA, Philippines – A total of 76 farmers arrested during the Kidapawan drought protest were released on Saturday, April 16, after completing the process for posting bail.
Two others are still detained but are expected to post bail as well.
MindaNews earlier reported that the court in Kidapawan City slashed the bail to P6,000 from P12,000 each for the provisional release of the farmers detained for alleged “direct assault upon an agent of a person in authority” during the following the violent dispersal on April 1.
Celebrities and other donors contributed to the bail fund of the farmers.
“The battle was not just in the court. It was in the public arena as well. When there was an outpouring of support, in a way it helped ensure that the farmers would be free at the soonest time,” said Sarah Villamor of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the group that provided legal assistance to the farmers.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a peasant organization, joined the celebration, thanking various groups for the "unconditional and best efforts to give aid" to the farmers.
Jerry Alborme, the organization's spokesperson, emphasized that there was still a long road ahead for justice. “We are not content with seeing our famished farmers freed," he said.
"We demand accountability from Police Senior Superintendent Tagum, Mayor Evangelista, the police officers in the ground that day, and Governor Mendoza and all those legally responsible. Only when they have been relieved from duty and put behind bars can we say that justice has been achieved,” Alborme added.
Two farmers not in contact
Two other farmers, Alfie Awe and Darwin Magyao, who were supposedly released on April 15, have not been in contact with support groups.
The two, both wounded, were discharged from the Madonna Hospital on April 13 before being transferred to the Kidapawan Police Station.
Villamor said Awe and Magyao were released but reportedly boarded a vehicle owned by the Arakan town mayor. She added that they will continue to monitor the two's whereabouts.
Kidapawan and #BigasHindiBala
The Kidapawan farmers' protest, which ended in a violent dispersal, was over the drought's effects on local agriculture. Because of the weather phenomenon caused, the farmers did not have enough to eat. (READ: Kidapawan and the rice riots)
They hoped holding a demonstration in the city would push the government to give them food and other forms of aid. However, by April 1, the police at the protest area received the orders to clear the highway, which the farmers blocked.
In the dispersal which followed, farmers reportedly threw rocks and other objects, while the police fired shots. When the smoke cleared, two people died – one a bystander and resident of Kidapawan and the other a protesting farmer.
The police then filed criminal charges against 81 people.
A Senate probe began investigating the events in Kidapawan. Another public hearing is set on April 20. – Rappler.com