Human rights lawyers blast Aquino for ignoring Kidapawan farmers
A GROUP of human rights lawyers on Wednesday denounced President Benigno Aquino III’s administration for ignoring the plight of hungry Kidapawan farmers appealing for government’s assistance.
“Nasaan ang Pangulo? He seems to be too preoccupied campaigning in order to perpetuate its power. It is such a shame for the Aquino government that volunteer pro bono lawyers, paralegals and other concerned are the ones providing legal and other assistance to the victims and the starved farmers of Kidapawan,” the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) through its Secretary General Atty. Edre Olalia said in a statement.
Last April 1 two farmers were killed and several others were injured in a violent dispersal of farmers holding mass action for the government to provide them assistance after their crops were withered by drought.
The police filed direct assault and frustrated murder cases against 79 individuals, mostly farmers, some elderly and three are pregnant women.
Last April 10, Aquino admitted it was late of April 1 when he learned of the incident in Kidapawan.
“When I was on my home or on my way back to Manila, DILG Secretary Mel Sarmiento mentioned he will travel to Kidapawan the next day. I asked him, ‘What will you do in Kidapawan?,” Aquino said.
“Honestly, that was the first time I heard that they were blocking the highway in Kidapawan and there was a violent dispersal,” Aquino added.
He said he immediately wanted to resolve the conflict in Kidapawan and called a meeting of concerned officials despite falling ill.
But he said the meeting was pushed back to Monday, April 4, since the officials were not yet ready to give their briefing.
Olalia said the farmers received food assistance and cash donations for bail from individuals, including Robin Padilla and other actors, singer Aiza Seguerra and friends, and, among others, Senators Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero as well as private practitioners.
The detained farmers are being represented by NUPL, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), Public Interest Law Center (PILC), local members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).
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