Following the violent clash in Kidapawan that led to the death of three people, composed of two farmers and a bystander, and 140 reportedly injured police, including two that were left in critical condition due to head trauma, the motion to reduce bail for the Kidapawan farmers charged with direct assault remains pending after Municipal Trial Court Judge Rebecca de Leon requested for additional documents from the defense.
The bloodshed between the anti-riot police and thousands of drought-hit farmers last April 1 was caused after the farmers protested asking the government for the most basic human need—food.
According to a report in Balitanghali, Judge De Leon asked for judicial affidavits from representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), who issued certificates of indigency for the farmers; and requested for medical certificates and judicial affidavits from doctors who examined the farmers.
Lawyer Dionesio Alave, President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in North Cotabato, asked the court to reduce the bail for the provincial release of the farmers from PhP12,000 to PhP2,000.
District Attorney Orlando Daño of the Public Attorney’s Office also argued that most of the farmers are not capable of posting bail as they can even hardly afford to buy rice fore themselves.
“The accused belong to the farmers and Lumads. They are hit so much by the El Niño that a mere statement that the rice would be given induced them to come out from their far-flung areas to Kidapawan City,” he said.
Meanwhile, the prosecution said that they are not against the motion to reduce the bail although they think that the fine of PhP2,000 for each farmers is too low. They added that they want assurance on the continuous attendance of the farmers in the hearings even after posting bail.
Among the 79 farmers detained and transferred to the Cotabato Provincial Jail are a 78-year-old grandmother and three pregnant women.
The defense said that humanitarian considerations must be applied to the detainees, especially to senior citizens and the pregnant women.
In a statement reported in Balitanghali, they said that “If Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who is charged of plunder for being linked to the alleged pork barrel scam, can be released from prison for humanitarian reasons, poor farmers also deserve this kind of consideration.”
Use of firearms
Cotabato provincial Police Chief Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum defended the use of firearms, saying the lives of the men were in danger due to some protesters who allegedly were carrying guns.
“There was an imminent death of my colleague (who was hit by a bullet). So I said ‘Tulungan natin sila.’ (Let’s help them) That’s when I heard gunfire. It was the judgment of my security team to use firearms,” he said in a GMA report.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, the committee chairman, however said that the police’s decision to open fire was still wrong despite justifying it as saving life of their fellowmen.
Based on Section 13 of the Public Assembly Act of 1985, law enforcers are not allowed to carry firearms within 100 meters from a group holding protest activity or rally.
‘Failure of leadership’
After the farmers attempt of seeking relief and subsidy from the government which led to a violent clash, Malacañang denied the government was lacking in help for farmers affected by El Niño.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government had been “fairly successful in mitigating the impact of El Niño, particularly in ensuring sufficiency in supply of food and keeping prices stable,” citing the report of the El Niño Task Force headed by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra.
He added that the government is doing its best to assist farmers in Region 12, the second region in the country that has been badly hit by El Niño phenomenon.
Meanwhile, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza and the mayors where the farmers came from were taking full responsibility for the incident.
Militants have accused Mendoza of sending bullets to the farmers instead of the 15,000 sacks of rice that the farmers had demanded.
Mendoza previously said that the protesters blocked the Davao City-Cotabato national highway, prompting authorities to take action.
By VIA BAROMA