April 8, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Investigation results of an independent fact-finding mission by militant groups on the bloody dispersal in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato pegged the number of fatalities to two.
Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan and head of the mission, said both victims identified as Enrico Fabligar and Darwin Sulang, died from gunshot wounds.
Palabay has branded as “false” the reports claiming that Sulang died from cardio respiratory arrest, secondary to head injury due to mauling.
In the death certificate provided by Sulang’s family, a Dr. Edgar Gantuangco from the Kidapawan Doctor’s Hospital also reported that Sulang had an avulsed wound in the occipital area and a puncture wound in the frontal area secondary to mauling.
However, the certificate had no signature of Gantuangco.
Palabay said the victims were both civilians that only happened to be in the barricade site at the time of the dispersal.
She said their investigation also showed that at least 44 individuals sustained injuries.
Out of this number, she said at least 32 were wounded by the police shooting spree.
In particular, she said 10 persons suffered from fatal gunshot wounds, 22 also sustained gunshot wounds but with less serious injuries, while others were hurt from truncheon blows, among others.
Palabay said two eyewitnesses saw some policemen on top of a fire truck and firing their guns to the protesters.
She said at least 70 individuals, including Richard Emboc and Eric Santos, who were merely bystanders during the dispersal, have been illegally arrested for charges of direct assault.
She added that among those that have been arrested were 25 women, including three pregnant, and three elderly.
Palabay said the arrested individuals are currently detained at the Kidapawan City Gym and Kidapawan Convention Center.
She said they have also documented various attempts of police and some local officials to destroy evidence and clear the crime scene by burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters.
Palabay said these are meant to cover up and make difficult the proceedings of upcoming investigations against the police and members of the local government.
In sum, Palabay said the police used of firearms and employing violent methods to dismantle the barricade-protest conducted by over 4,000 farmers in Kidapawan violates local and international human rights laws.
She said the government was also liable for the violence for its failure to provide relief to thousands of farmers in North Cotabato over the drought period since last year.
According to the mission’s report, the economic problem faced by the farmers in the region was realities that the local and national government neglected to address.
“It was sufficiently established through the testimonies of the victims interviewed by the mission that the effects of the drought, which is continually ravaging hundreds of hectares of farm land in Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines, impacts on thousands of farmers and their families,” the report said.
“There is no denying as to the extent of the damage caused by the drought, and the untold suffering and hunger brought to the affected farmers. These expose the lies being peddled by the government belittling the effect of the drought in the farmlands to this date,” it added.
The delegate of the mission demanded to investigate North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza for misappropriation of the calamity fund; President Aquino and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for their negligence and failure to put up appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon and in providing assistance to those affected; and police and military officials of different units operating in Central Mindanao for their participation and complicity in the violent dispersal of the farmers last April 1.
“The truth of the matter is clear. The government, after a year of first recognizing the drought threat, failed to provide aid and killed those who dare decry it,” Palabay said.
“We ought to make accountable the local actors in the killings, but their puppet masters as well, and their assistants in the theater of terror. Only so can we provide justice for the farmers,” she added.
The national fact-finding and humanitarian mission is composed of medical practitioners, lawyers, and paralegals from various progressive groups led by Karapatan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
The mission, conducted from April 4 to 6, used interviews with the protesters, photo-and video-documentations of the crime area, psychosocial intervention with the victims, and consultation among lawyers.
Palabay earlier said they will submit the full findings of their investigation and recommendations before the Senate that conducted a hearing on the violent dispersal on Thursday.
She said they will also submit it to the Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations.
She added that lawyers of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers plan to use it in the filing of charges against ranking officials in connection with the incident.