Rice donations for North Cotabato farmers pour in
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato – While at least 300 of the more than 5,000 protesting farmers went home to their respective towns on Sunday, two days after the bloody dispersal that left three people dead and dozens others wounded, the same number of farmers arrived from Makilala town to get their share of the donated rice.
Police, however, refused to let the farmers go inside the Spottwoods Methodist Center where the protesters have been staying.
Rice donations have started to pour in for the farmers. Actor Robin Padilla, who visited the protesters who were staying inside the Methodist Center here on Saturday, had 200 sacks of rice delivered before he left. Also on Saturday, at least 65 sacks of rice, which were donated by individuals, arrived from Davao City.
Antonio Flores, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said the new group came from six villages of Makilala town.
Flores said the group just wanted to get their share of the donated rice because they failed to receive rice assistance from the local government of Makilala.
Pedro Arnado, a farmer from the town of Arakan and a KMP leader, said there was no need to bar the farmers from entering because they were there to get their share of the donated rice, and would not be staying long inside the church compound.
“The purpose of going inside the compound is just for the distribution of the donations received yesterday. After receiving their share, they will board trucks and finally return to their homes in their farming communities,” Arnado said.
Supt. Jerson Birrey, commander of the police’s public safety battalion, said he was just following orders from his immediate superior to hold the protesters from joining the bigger group inside the Methodist compound.
Some 300 protesters had left the Methodist compound to go to their respective homes in the towns of Antipas, Arakan, President Roxas and Magpet. The provincial government provided dump trucks to transport the farmers who wanted to go home.
Arnado said some of the farmers and leaders have already decided to start their journey back to their homes because they have already conveyed their message of desperation, which he said, “unfortunately and detestably would not have gained attention and importance if they had not risked their necks.”
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño Mendoza said she was optimistic that the crisis would be over soon.
But Mendoza insisted that 15,000 sacks of rice demanded by the protesters would be released through the local governments.
She said those who would like to remain and continue the protest could do it but they would not be allowed to block the national highway.
Arnado said farmers’ groups would demand for accountability in the violent dispersal.
And with help flooding in from private groups and individuals, Arnado said they were grateful for the overwhelming support.
“We appreciate what you are doing. Rest assured these will reach many farmers in our communities, including those who were not in the barricade,” Arnado said. SFM
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