Roxas: Politicians behind bloody farmers’ rally; Leni wants gov’t to face responsibility
OLONGAPO CITY — The rally by drought-hit farmers in Kidapawan City that led to a violent police dispersal, leaving three people dead and scores injured, might have been instigated by self-serving politicians, Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Mar Roxas told reporters here Tuesday.
He said he strongly condemned the bloodshed “both on the law enforcement side and on the side of the protesters” and called for a full investigation to get to the bottom of what militant organizations had begun calling the “Kidapawan Massacre,” which happened on April 1 along the North Cotabato national highway.
“What’s needed here is a comprehensive and intensive investigation into what really happened because there are reports that this rally was not organic, meaning it wasn’t the people of North Cotabato who were there,” he said in Filipino.
“This may have been instigated by politicians who wanted something to happen to heighten the issue or raise their ratings,” said Roxas, a former interior secretary who once exercised administrative control over the national police.
In a chance interview after stumping for votes before a crowd of 2,000 at the Rizal Triangle Multi-Purpose Center, Roxas stressed the importance of determining what really happened so those responsible could be punished.
“This is not just for headlines, for newspapers, for politics, or for the campaign,” Roxas said.
“There were people who died or got hurt or injured, so this cynical use of innocent people is not right,” he said.
His running mate Leni Robredo, in a separate interview at the same venue, said the officials directly involved in the operation and the dispersal of the protesters should be suspended pending the investigation.
The Camarines Sur congresswoman, taking a starkly different position from Roxas, earlier called for heads to roll after the Kidapawan violence.
“What I am asking is that in order to have an in-depth investigation, and so the public will have confidence in the findings, the people directly involved in the operation should not remain in their posts in the meantime,” Robredo said.
She said she also understood that the LP candidates might bear the brunt of the backlash over the Kidapawan clash.
“All the gains of the administration are pluses for us, and all the criticisms against the administration are minuses for us, but that goes with the territory,” said the widow of Jesse Robredo, the interior secretary who preceded Roxas.
She said the government should explain to the public what happened.
“If there were failures, these should be accepted but there must also be concrete action along with it, so we will not sound like apologists for the government,” Robredo said. SFM
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