Kidapawan farmers file charges vs Aquino allies, police

Paige Occeñola
Kidapawan farmers file charges vs Aquino allies, police
'Our struggle for food, land and justice is legitimate, and we will pursue justice in every possible way', one of the complainants vows

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III may have absolved the police involved in the dispersal of the Kidapawan drought protest that turned bloody on April 1, but affected farmers want to make them accountable.

“Si Ginoong Aquino ug ang iyang Liberal Party nagahimo sa tanang pamaagi aron babagan kita sa pagpaningil (Mr Aquino and the Liberal Party are employing all means to stop us from seeking accountability),” said Ebao Sulang, father of slain Manobo farmer Darwin Sulang, in a statement.

On Monday, April 25, Sulang and other protesters filed counter-charges against 94 cops, as well as military and government officials, before the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao City. 

Citing laws that might have been violated, the farmers sought the investigation and prosecution of the officials for charges that included murder, frustrated and attempted murder, torture and physical injuries, illegal arrest and detention, and other alleged civil and political rights violations:

  • Republic Act No. 7438 – “An Act Defining Certain Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation, As Well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers”
  • Republic Act No. 9745 – “An Act Penalizing Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” particularly Sections 4 (b) (9), Section 4 (b) (10), and Section 5 thereof
  • Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 – “An Act Ensuring the Free Exercise of the Right to Peaceably Assemble and Petition the Government, more particularly under Sections 9, 10, and 13 (e), (f), (g) thereof
  • Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code – Arbitrary Detention
  • Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code – Perjury in Solemn Affirmation
  • Presidential Decree No. 1829 – “Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders

Administration allies Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, and Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista were among the accused. 

Other respondents included Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ricardo Marquez, police regional and provincial officers, 39th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt Col Arnold Argamosa, and at least 78 other local government, police, and military officials.

The police earlier filed criminal charges against the farmers who were eventually detained. Two weeks after, at least 76 were released. Two more farmers, who were earlier released, are missing and not in contact with the group.

The farmers’ protest, which ended in a violent dispersal that left two farmers dead and dozens wounded, was over the effects of El Niño on local agriculture. Because of the weather phenomenon caused, the farmers did not have enough to eat. (READ: Kidapawan and the rice riots)

The farmers also sought probe on the alleged failure of Alcala, Mendoza, and other responsible officials “to place the proper measures that could have mitigated the effects of El Niño and the possible misappropriation of the calamity funds.” 

“Our struggle for food, land, and justice is legitimate,” said one of the complainants, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – North Cotabato spokesperson Gerry Alborme, vowing that the farmers “will pursue justice in every possible way.” – 

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