MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of protesting farmers stormed the offices of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) in Quezon City on Thursday, clashing with riot policemen who tried to stop them with fire extinguishers.
Police Officer 3 Ma. Theresa Monet said the rallyists were able to enter the compound after climbing up its walls, prompting security officers to retaliate.
“Nagkagulo doon kanina pero hindi pa natin masabi kung ano mismo nangyari. Basta nakapasok mga militante,” she said.
The militants arrived Wednesday evening.
Led by the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the farmers hailing from Bicol, Quezon, Aurora and Cagayan provinces forced their way into the NAPC headquarters to air their demand that the agency be stopped from touching the controversial “coco levy” funds for its poverty alleviation projects.
They also suggested that the NAPC headed by Secretary Joel Rocamora, a former president of the Akbayan partylist group, may use the P1.6 billion taken from the nearly P70 billion coco levy fund for political purposes, particularly the senatorial campaign of Akbayan’s former representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel.
KMP leaders said Quezon City policemen sprayed them with fire extinguishers in an attempt to stop them from entering the compound.
But they were able to barge in and occupied the lobby, where they began voicing their grievances.
A radio report said at least one police officer was hurt during the clash. He was identified as Colonel Pedro Sanchez.
In a statement, KMP said the farmers were demanding the dismantling of what they described as the “coco levy fund mafia,” referring to the Malacanang-created Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds.
The task force, according to the KMP, was pushing for the P11.17 billion five-year “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” that included the “conditional cash transfer (CCT) program,” the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps),” and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER).
KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said “concerned government officials brought to our attention that Rocamora is advancing P1.6 billion from the coco levy funds for his anti-peasant poverty reduction roadmap of the coconut industry.”
“The Palace-created coco levy fund ‘mafia’ is hell-bent in scheming to once again plunder small coconut farmers’ money,” said Marbella.
“The nerve! We did not fight the dictatorship and continue to struggle to reclaim the coco levy funds only for Rocamora and his gang of thieves to once again steal our hard-earned money,” he said.