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20 farmers, held after violent Kidapawan dispersal, freed

/ 03:40 AM April 17, 2016
A POSTER demanding charges be filed against policemen who opened fire at the rally of farmers in Kidapawan City is displayed during a protest rally by militant groups at the Department of Justice. RICHARD REYES

A POSTER demanding charges be filed against policemen who opened fire at the rally of farmers in Kidapawan City is displayed during a protest rally by militant groups at the Department of Justice. RICHARD REYES

KIDAPAWAN CITY—Twenty of the 77 protesters detained here, including some elderly and two women who were pregnant, had been freed as of Friday.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, said despite their ordeal, the freed farmers were overjoyed at their release.

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Ten of those detained after the April 1 violent dispersal of their rally here were released late Thursday.

Another set of 10 detainees walked out of detention as of 3 p.m. on Friday, including 65-year-old Jovita Debalid.

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Debalid said that if life in the hinterlands was difficult for them, it was worse inside the jail.

She was detained at the North Cotabato District Jail in Barangay Amas here, which is overcrowded with inmates.

“We didn’t get enough rest because of the congestion. We’re like sardines packed in a tight can,” Debalid said.

There was also a serious shortage of water at the jail, she said.

Palabay said efforts to free the other detainees were continuing.

At least 10 more farmers were released on Friday, including 72-year-old Valentina Berdin, after their documents were processed.

Earlier, the processing of the farmers’ release was hampered by the lack of identification documents of some of the detainees even if the bail required by the court from them had already been put up.

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The four- to six-hour daily brownout here contributed to the delay as the farmers’ photos, which should be attached to the bail documents, could not be immediately taken.

In Davao City, the militant group Gabriela said one of its representatives to Congress, Emmi de Jesus, and other militant leaders had a dialogue with Acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas.

In a statement, Gabriela said De Jesus demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all the detained farmers and criticized the imposition of bail as “an insult and another form of injustice, similar to that of rubbing salt on open wound,” said Gabriela.

Caparas, Gabriela said, also “voiced his concern and assured the delegation that negotiations were underway so that all charges lodged against the farmers were immediately dropped.” Williamor Magbanua and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Cristina Palabay, Department of Justice, Farmers, farming, Jovita Debalid, Karapatan, Kidapawan City
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