Cops hold 300 farmers in Bukidnon town
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Law enforcers held about 300 farmers from Bukidnon in Manolo Fortich town this morning while the farmers were en route to this city to conduct a protest rally on Good Friday.
Angelita Jurial, spokesperson of the farmers’ group Ogyon, one of the participating organizations, said police officers manning a checkpoint flagged down their convoy on Friday morning telling the protesters they were looking for a suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who was allegedly in their group.
“First they told us that a member of Hustisya from San Fernando, Bukidnon, whom they suspected of being an NPA member, was with us,” Jurial said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. But when they could not find the person they were looking for, we were not permitted to proceed as we were accused of violating a law, seeing that the group was bringing along minors,” Jurial said.
Jurial said they reasoned out that the children were with their parents and they have to be brought along as no one would be left to care for them while their parents were away.
There were about 15 children in the group, Jurial said.
Jurial said their group was composed of members of farmers’ organizations from the towns of San Fernando, Maramag, and Quezon, and the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia.
They assembled in Valencia City and were moving in a convoy of 14 vehicles, including public utility jeeps and multicabs, and have traveled about a hundred kilometers when they were stopped in Manolo Fortich, which was only about 40 kilometers from Cagayan de Oro City.
Valencia is about 140 kilometers from Cagayan De Oro City or travel time of about three and a half hours.
As of 4:10 p.m., the group was still being held in Manolo Fortich, Jurial said.
Jurial said they also could not leave as they did not want to surrender their children to the police and the local social workers who wanted to place them in the custody of the municipal social welfare department.
She said they were heading for Cagayan de Oro as they wanted to mount a protest action in front of the city hall to show their indignation against Mayor Oscar Moreno for his pronouncement backing the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Our stand is that martial law is not the solution. It has, in fact, worsened the plight of the ordinary people. It is not for fighting terrorism, but for civilians and activists,” Jurial said.
In a statement this afternoon, Police Lieutenant Colonel Surki Sereñas, spokesperson for the Northern Mindanao Police Regional Office (PRO10), said that while the Philippines National Police respects every person’s right to travel, to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, “we cannot allow flagrant defiance of the law, breach of peace and disorderly conduct in a supposedly peaceful and tranquil day of the (Lent).”
“Hence, the group identifying themselves as members of dubious (indigenous peoples) and peasant organization of Bukidnon on their way to stage a rally in Cagayan de Oro City were stopped by PNP personnel at Manolo Fortich checkpoint for routine public safety and security check.”
He said they also wanted to ensure that the group was not violating the law on trafficking in person and the law against child abuse.
“They are free to go as soon as they are cleared of any unlawful infraction,” added Sereñas. /lzb
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.