PNP: Kidapawan protesters attacked police first
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said the protesting farmers now crying a bloody dispersal in Kidapawan City, were the first to attack the policemen.
Police Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor, PNP spokesman, said the protesters threw poles, pieces of wood and stones toward authorities manning the activity.
Mayor said around 4,000 protesters began to assemble on the Cotabato-Davao Highway, Kidapawan City on Wednesday, March 30.
READ: 1 killed, 13 hurt after police open fire in North Cotabato farmer protest
The police official said the protesters composed of farmers, indigenous peoples, and cause-oriented groups gathered to blockade the highway.
“Said groups raised issues concerning the El Niño and the non-distribution of NFA rice, upon the declaration of a State of Calamity by LGUs. The City government immediately convened the City Crisis Management Council to address the situation,” Mayor said.
The police executive said Provincial Governor Emilou Mendoza and other mayors of North Cotabato attempted to engage the protesters.
Quoting Mendoza, Mayor said they “exhausted all possible remedies, prompting sections of the crowd to disperse and head back to their communities.”
But most of the protesters refused to clear the area.
“Their presence continued to disrupt public movement in one of the major transportation arteries of Mindanao,” Mayor said.
When the permit to rally lapsed past 10 a.m. Friday, combined PNP troops under police district and Police Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum under the guidance of Mendoza conducted an operation to clear the national highway and, in coordination with the DSWD, rescue minors who were part of the protest.
“Before the PNP could start their operation, however, protesters attacked them with poles and pieces of wood. Large rocks were also thrown at the policemen, and at the stationary fire truck deployed to the area,” Mayor said.
READ: PNP probing Kidapawan incident; claims 2 policemen also hurt
He said a commotion followed, which resulted in injuries to policemen and protesters.
The PNP said 40 policemen have been injured, with 2 of them in critical condition due to head trauma.
“We are consolidating information as regards the injured and a reported casualty on the side of the rallyists. All those injured were immediately brought to nearby hospitals to receive proper medical care,” Mayor said.
He said a number of protesters were arrested, including an individual reported to be an NPA Commander from Barangay (village) Basak, Magpet, North Cotabato.
“We reiterate that our policemen are trained and instructed to always exercise maximum tolerance, while at the same time remaining vigilant so they may respond in a calibrated manner to threats,” he said.
Mayor said the PNP is investigating the violent dispersal as “certain pieces of information remain conflicting.”
“We request that the public approach this issue with fairness and proper discernment as we pursue the truth,” he said.
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