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Officials accuse outsiders of instigating mass action by North Cotabato peasants

Local News • 02:19 AM Sun Apr 3, 2016
John Unson
(Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

KIDAPAWAN CITY --- The peasant groups that blocked for five days vital stretches of national highways in North Cotabato were instigated by various blocs hostile to Malacanang to deliberately reject offers to address their demands peacefully, officials said on Saturday.The dispersal on Friday of the farmers, whose permit to converge in Kidapawan City was valid only for Monday, resulted to a bloody clash between them and the policemen tasked to dismantle the roadblocks they set on highways crisscrossing the province.Three farmers, Rotello Daelto, Victor Lumandang and Enrico Pabrica, were killed in the incident, which also left more than 116 others injured, among them 26 policemen.North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño, chairperson of the provincial peace and order council, said she and the mayors of the towns from where the farmers had come from takes full responsibility for the incident.Mendoza said groups from outside of North Cotabato, among them the AnakPawis, the Bayan Muna, the League of Filipino Students, the Gabriela and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas came to join what was thought as only a gathering of drought-stricken farmers seeking relief interventions.Thousands of commuters and motorists were affected when the farmers set road blocks and barricaded portions of two national highways straddling through North Cotabato.Local officials from drought-affected North Cotabato towns said some constituents have told them that many of the farmers from the Arakan, Magpet,Makilala, Antipas and Tulunan municipalities were coerced by the New People’s Army to join the pickets to attract the attention of the media.Some farmers also barricaded at the entrance to the provincial office of the National Food Authority southwest of Kidapawan City, the capital of North Cotabato.Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista earlier said Mendoza was to have a dialogue with the leaders of the farmers in his office at the city hall Wednesday night, but none of them came to talk to the governor.Mendoza said trucks were ready to transport the farmers back to their hometowns, where their respective local government units can attend to their needs, but none of them agreed to leave peacefully.Mendoza said there are procedures and protocols in dispersing relief supplies to farmers in drought-devastated areas, which include validation by their respective local government units of their identities and residency. The local government units have already started initiating relief operations for drought-stricken communities before this happened. There was no need for them to gather in Kidapawan City for a rally. Well, maybe because many of them are not from the province,” Mendoza said.Mendoza said she was also surprised on why the farmers showed force” in public instead of seeing her at the provincial capitol compound in Barangay Amas southwest of Kidapawan City. That is the seat of the provincial government and previous dialogues with different sectors from across the province were held there peacefully,” Mendoza said.

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