ANTIPOLO CITY, April 3, 2016—The lady governor of Cotabato province threatens the bishop of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Kidapawan with a lawsuit as he “harbors” protesters, referring to more than 6,000 farmers and indigenous peoples who recently staged a three-day protest asking the government for food assistance.
In a copy of the letter obtained by CBCPNews dated 01 April 2016, Cotabato Gov. Emmylou “Lala” J. Talino-Mendoza said local officials have obtained reliable information that UMC Bishop Ciriaco Francisco is protecting and assisting “illegal protesters” inside Spottswood United Methodist Church of which the latter is the pastor.
“With these, please be informed that your action of harboring these protesters is punishable by law. We might be constrained to take legal actions against you unless your cooperation with us in addressing this issue formally and legally,” read the last portion of the letter.
On April 1, the Philippine National Police violently dispersed the barricading protesters comprised of farmers and lumads, as they pressure the government to give them food assistance in the face of the ongoing drought, which has rendered the land incapable of production.
Alternative news service Kilab Multimedia reported that two protesters have died with more than 30 wounded as the members of the PNP opened fire on the group in efforts to dismantle the human barricade.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines condemned the bloody dispersal, saying the Aquino government should be held accountable for the incident.
“We hold the Aquino administration as responsible for this merciless act. The farmers who are crippingly affected by the drought, pushed to desperation, demanding aid, hence, their protest, are worse, responded with and confronted by a state-instigated viciousness,” said Sr. Francis Añover, RSM, the national coordinator of the RMP in a statement.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response also condemned the incident and asked the government to immediately release food assistance to farmers severely affected by drought in Mindanao. (Noel Sales Barcelona / CBCPNews)