Farmers still languishing in Kidapawan jail

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Manila, April 9, 2016 – Some 43 farmers are still languishing in Kidapawan City jail as they await indictment for a number of law infringements a week after police dispersed on April 1 farmers’ and indigenous people’s barricade along the national road.

According to some reports, as many as 70 farmers are facing charges.

Incidentally, Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta said the Kidapawan PAO District Office has been extending legal assistance to those charged with law infractions.

In a separate interview with CBCP News, he said it would be better if NGOs and faith-based organizations continue to help by raising enough money for bail which has been pegged at Php 2,000 per person.

No rice assistance

It was learned, however, the rallyists have not returned to their villages and no assistance has been extended them by the Department of Agriculture nor have they received rice assistance.

Fr. Lito Garcia, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kidapawan told CBCPNews, he was asked by rally organizers last Monday, April 4, to negotiate for and in their behalf for the safe passage of donated food commodities donated by non-government and faith-based organizations.

The priest said Italian PIME missionary Fr. Peter Geremia has also been helping the villagers, who came from distant villages affected by severe weather phenomenon called El Niño.

Geremia has been known for community-organizing and extending assistance to the poor and marginalized in Mindanao for years.

Last Tuesday, April 5, Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Arellano Evangelista requested the priest’s assistance to facilitate the safe egress of police and military operatives out of the area.

Public hearing

“Many of them [have left], they used more than 10 vehicles to go back to their own towns,” said Garcia in Filipino.  He added tension have subsided and no more identity checks have been made on farmers and rallyists.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights conducted a public hearing at the University of Southeastern Philippines yesterday to shed light on the violent and fatal dispersal operations launched by the local police.
Asked if he was able to attend the hearing, Garcia said he was not invited the senate committee staff.

The Kidapawan rally and dispersal operations will be the topic for Monday’s Tapatan sa Aristocrat with representatives from the Departments of Agriculture; Social Welfare and Development; and Interior and Local Government, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; and the CBCP-National Secretariat of Social Action, Justice, and Peace in attendance.  (Melo M. Acuña / CBCPNews)

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