Victims of bloody dispersal in Kidapawan attend Senate hearing in Manila

“I never thought I could reach Manila. I was only after the rice subsidy, but this need for rice has taken me to jail and now in Manila,” an exasperated Valentina Berdin said in Cebuano. The 78-year-old woman was charged with direct assault after the police dispersed the farmers on April 1. She was among the farmers detained after the bloody dispersal which, included elderly and pregnant women.

“I was brought to the Convention Center. I am very sad that a case was filed against us; we were only after the rice subsidy,” said Berdin. Berdin  

Berdin, with two more witnesses, Ebao Sulang and Arnel Takyawan, arrived in Manila to testify today at the Senate inquiry on the violent dispersal last April 1 which resulted in the death of two individuals—Darwin Sulang, a farmer/tricycle driver and Enrico Fabligar, a bystander.

“The police told me to go with them because I will be safe with them. They brought me to their place. They were many—male and female police and military men. Later they brought me, and many others, to the Convention Center,” Berdin attested in her affidavit. She was detained at the Convention Center of Kidapawan for two weeks. She was released after posting bail last April 15.

Meanwhile, Ebao Sulang, father of Darwin, said in his affidavit,“I saw that my son’s skull was cut and stuffed with cotton and  his brain was no longer there.” Sulang  also noticed the death certificate issued by the Kidapawan Doctors’ Hospital cited “head injury due to mauling”  as the cause of Darwin’s death. Yet, video footage taken during the dispersal showed that Darwin was among those shot in the head.

Sulang said he learned his son’s remains had two previous autopsies when Dr. Raquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist, conducted her autopsy. “I learned that my son was previously autopsied by the SOCO and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), but I was neither informed nor did I consent to the two autopsies conducted,” Sulang said in his affidavit.

When Darwin’s remains was brought home and buried, Ebao experienced a series of harassments from state security forces. There were also attempts by the local government to settle the case.

“Naa na miy abogado dili na lang ko sa negosasyon. Ipalutao na lang nato ang hustisya sa pagkamatay,” (“We already have a lawyer so I won’t negotiate. Let justice prevail), said Darwin’s father.

Sulang also recalled that on April 14, “when I was not home, unidentified persons threatened my neighbors and relatives that they will “take” me…on April 18, 2016, a relative called me to say that a van full of men, who identified themselves as NBI, were looking for me.”

The violence did not stop after the April 1 dispersal, the human rights group Karapatan said. It continues today as victims cry for justice and farmers affected by the drought continue to demand for food aid. “This is the typical response of BS Aquino’s dang matuwid—kill those who are fighting to survive and cover up their crimes by further instilling violence,” Karapatan said. Karapatan calls for justice for the victims of the Kidapawan shooting. ###