Kidapawan bullets not from cops–PNP
The bullets that killed two men during the violent dispersal of the April 1 rally of farmers in Kidapawan City did not come from the police, officials of the Philippine National Police said on Wednesday.
Senior Supt. Alejandro Gunao, Region 12 Crime Laboratory Office chief, told the Senate committee that the ballistics exams of the PNP showed that the M16 bullets that killed Darwin Sulang, a 22-year-old farmer, and Enrico Fabilgar, 30, a bystander.
Gunao said the police had checked all the firearms used by the PNP during the dispersal.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile had scolded the police regional officials for firing at the protesters.
“Why did you use your firearms to fire at the people directly? Even when we are under martial law, we never did that. It is a doctrine in the military that you cannot fire at civilians,” Enrile said.
But North Cotabato police chief Senior Supt Alexander Tagum, who was relieved from his post, said he did not order his men to fire at the protesters.
“Are you saying the militants killed their own people?” Enrile asked.
“That might be the case,” Tagum said.
Dr. Raquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist who examined the two fatalities in the violent dispersal, posted in her Twitter account: “Why are they (police) investigating themselves?”
During Wednesday’s Senate probe, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano also grilled agriculture and budget officials for not releasing the P38-billion calamity fund which could have been spent to mitigate the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon on farmers.
“Just to clarify, in the P38 billion that is provided in the 2016 General Appropriations Act… Not a single cent was spent?” Cayetano asked the agriculture officials.
But Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was not at the Senate hearing.
“Not yet,” an agriculture official said.
“Not yet because the people are still alive and you are waiting until they die before you act,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said the government could have avoided the violent dispersal if it had been proactive.
The agriculture officials said they are constrained by the strict requirements in releasing the calamity fund. “We cannot moto propio release the calamity fund because we are following the law,” the agriculture official said.
Cayetano likewise scored the police’s lack of protective and dispersal equipment.
“If we did our job, this would not happen. Even if the protest was infiltrated by the left-wing groups, the farmers by the thousands would not go there if they were not hungry,” Cayetano said.
Enrile also wondered why the government did not give in to the demand of protesting farmers for 15,000 sacks of rice when this could be easily covered by President Aquino’s P38-billion calamity fund.
The 15,000 sacks of rice would only cost the government P17 million, he noted.
“That’s just a fraction of a percent of the P38-billion calamity fund of President Aquino,” Enrile said at the second hearing by the Senate justice and human rights committee.
The protesting farmers had occupied the national highway in Kidapawan City for four days to demand for food aid from the government because their farms were ravaged by El Niño-related droughts. But they were dispersed by police instead. The dispersal turned violent, causing the death of three farmers and wounding of 116 people, including policemen.
At the hearing, Enrile asked why the NFA did not release the sacks of rice to the farmers at its warehouse there in the city, as he noted there was an “immediate danger of law and order” there by hungry farmers demanding rice.
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