MANILA, April 2, 2016— Church leaders from across the country condemned Friday’s violence in Mindanao.
Two farmers died and dozens were injured after security forces opened fire as they dispersed protesters along a highway in Kidapawan City.
Hundreds of farmers, mostly lumads, had blocked the Davao-Cotabato road since Wednesday, to demand for immediate relief from the effects of El Niño.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said 40 of their men were also hurt, with two of them in “critical condition” when the protesters reportedly attacked them with poles and rocks.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said “a death is always tragic, even more when violent death visits God’s poor.”
“We pray for our farmers in Kidapawan. May those who died find peace and happiness in heaven,” Villegas said.
The CBCP head is praying that the issue will resolved immediately, as he appealed to the protesters and the victims’ families to avoid vengeance.
“May their families not give in to the cycle of vengeance but instead seek ways to restore peace,” he said.
“May the police and military return to their mandate to preserve peace, protect the weak and serve justice,” he added.
The drought-hit farmers are asking for food-aid assistance until they can resume planting. They also appealed for free seeds and agricultural support services so they can replace the crops they have lost.
On Saturday, Italian missionary Fr. Peter Geremiah, parish priest of Arakan town in Cotabato, visited the detained farmers, some of whom are his parishioners and beneficiaries of the parish projects.
The United Methodist Church also deplored the violence, as its leaders ask for a “just and peaceful” solution to the problem “that upholds the dignity and protects the human rights of all persons.”
“I pray for an end to violent confrontation and a spirit of compassion and reason,” said Susan Henry-Crowe, UMC General Secretary.
Many of the protesting farmers have taken refuge in the Spottswood Methodist Center.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) the “barbaric action” of the law enforcers display “the government neglect of people’s need and denial of basic rights.”
The ecumenical group said it will conduct a fact-finding mission on the bloody dispersal of farmers.
Meanwhile, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) criticized the government’s response to the farmers’ demands as police authorities continue to pursue the protesters even inside the sanctuary of a Methodist Church.
IFI Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Diocese of Surigao claimed these are human rights violations against farmers.
“This is too much an abuse and oppression against our farmers who toil for our foods.”
“In other societies, farmers are protected and subsidized by their own government. In the Philippines, it is the government that oppressed and killed them!” Timbang said. (R. Lagarde/CBCPNews)