MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento on Monday, April 4, ordered the creation of two “fact-finding panels” to probe a police dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City that caused the death of at least two people and injured more than 100 others.
Commissioner Job M. Mangente has been tasked to investigate the “operational aspect” of the police operation while Director Manuel Q. Gotis of the Bureau of Local Government Supervision will probe the local government unit (LGU), the National Police Commission (Napolcom) said in a statement.
The Napolcom has administrative control and operational supervision over the Philippine National Police (PNP). It is chaired by the Interior Secretary and has the PNP chief as ex-officio commissioner.
Sarmiento said the first panel will “focus on the actions made by PNP personnel and their commanders” during the dispersal while the LGU panel will check if the local government did what it could to address the drought caused by El Niño.
Thousands of farmers who picketed along the national highway were demanding rice and aid. Mindanao is among the worst-hit by the drought.
Sarmiento had earlier said the local government heeded the national government’s warnings and insisted that police on the ground did not use “excessive force” in dispersing the farmers.
Who’s behind protest?
The interior secretary, formerly the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), had earlier said “facts” should first be determined first before laying blame on the government.
The government – both local and national – has been criticized for supposedly failing to address the needs of hungry and impoverished farmers.
“Sino ba nag-organize? Sino nag-finance? High finance ito ha, transporting people from other provinces. Dinala doon (Who organized the protest? Who financed it? People from other provinces were brought there),” said Sarmiento in a chance interview with reporters on Monday.
On Tuesday, LP standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II expressed the same sentiments.
“‘Yung nangyari sa Kidapawan ay mariin kong kino-kondena, ‘yung karanasan na nangyari sa mga kababayan natin doon both on the law enforcement side at saka sa mga rallyista. Ang dapat na mangyari dito ay isang malawakan at mariing pag-iimbestiga kung ano talaga ang nangyari dito,” Roxas told reporters in a chance interview in Olongapo City.
(I condemn what happened in Kidapawan, the violence that happened there, both on the side of police and the protesters. What should happen now is a thorough investigation into what really happened.)
“Kasi may mga reports na itong rally na ito ay hindi organic, ibig sabihin, hindi ‘yung mga taga-North Cotabato ‘yung nandoon at ito ay nagawa or ininstiga ng mga pulitiko na nais na magkaroon ng insidente para mapalaki ‘yung kanilang mga isyu o kaya mapataas ang kanilang mga rating. Kaya mahalaga na magkaroon ng imbestigasyon kung ano talagang nangyari dito,” he added.
(There are reports that the rally was not organic, meaning those who were there were not from North Cotabato and this was organized or instigated by politicians who wanted something to happen so their issues could be amplified or so their ratings would increase. So it’s important to investigate what really happened.)
Roxas did not specific who these politicians were.
The administration candidate said those found responsible should be punished. “Dahil may mga namatay dito. Hindi ito headline lang para sa diyaryo. Hindi ito headline lang para sa pulitika. Hindi ito para sa kampanya lang. May mga namatay dito, may mga nasaktan, may mga nasugatan,” he said.
(People died. This isn’t just a newspaper headline. This isn’t just a political headline. This isn’t just for the campaign. People died, people were hurt, people were wounded.)
Roxas added: “So itong cynical na paggamit ng ating mga inosenteng kababayan para maitulak ang mga kawsa ay hindi tama. Dapat nating malaman kung anong nangyari dito para maparusahan ang dapat parusahan.”
(So this cynical usage of innocent Filipinos to pursue a cause is not right. We should know what happened here and punish those who need to be punished.
Neither Sarmiento nor the Napolcom indicated the deadline for the fact-finding panels. – Rappler.com