Farmers file charges against 94 government officials for Kidapawan violence

At least ninety-four (94) national and local officials, police and military officers were charged today for their involvement and participation in the various grave human rights violations committed against the North Cotabato farmers last April 1. Charges of murder, frustrated and attempted murder, torture and physical injuries, illegal arrest and detention and other civil and political rights violations were filed by the farmer-complainants, including families of those who were shot during the dispersal, as well as the farmers who were illegally arrested and detained by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"Ang atong pakigbisog alang sa pagkaon, yuta ug hustisya lehitimo, ug kab-uton ang hustisya sa tanang posibleng pamaagi. Dili ta mahadlok sa lain-laing dautang pagsulay sa gobyerno nga hasion ug hadlukon tabunan ang mga tulubagon sa mga opisyal.  Gipasang-at nato kini nga kaso isip kabahin sa atong padayong pagpangitag hustisya ug pakigbisog batud sa impunity (Our struggle for food, land and justice is legitimate, and we will pursue justice in every possible way. We are not cowed by various sinister government attempts to harass and intimidate us and to cover-up for these officials’ accountability. We filed this case as part of our continuing search for justice and battle against impunity),” said Gerry Alborme, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-North Cotabato spokesperson and one of the complainants in the case filed today by victims of the April 1 violent Kidapawan dispersal at the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao in Davao City.

Complainants also called for an investigation of officials who violated Republic Act 3019 for negligence and failure to place the proper measures that could have mitigated the effects of El Niño and possible misappropriation of calamity funds. The victims were assisted by human rights lawyers from the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and Public Interest Law Center (PILC), and paralegals from Karapatan and Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

Respondents in the various cases include Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Dept. of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala, North Cotabato officials Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista, PNP officials including Director General Ricardo Marquez and regional and provincial officers, 39th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, and at least seventy-eight (78) other local government, police and military officials.

Ebao Sulang, father of slain farmer Darwin Sulang, lamented that President Benigno Aquino III had already absolved the police for the crimes committed against the farmers. “Si Ginoong Aquino ug ang iyang Liberal Party nagahimo sa tanang pamaagi aron babagan kita sa pagpaningil. (Mr. Aquino and his Liberal Party are employing all means to stop us from seeking accountability),” he said.

Elderly and pregnant women farmers were also among the twenty-two (22) complainants who filed the case. Bayan, Karapatan and farmers from North Cotabato and Davao also held a rally outside the Office of the Ombudsman to support the filing of the charges. #

On April 25, 2016, two sets of complaints were filed by the victims of the April 1 violent Kidapawan dispersal at the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao in Davao City.

The first set of complaints was filed by Ebao Sulang, Victor Lumondang Jr., Arnel Takyawan, Mark Anthony Delgado and Lumenario Agustin. They filed criminal charges of murder, frustrated murder, three counts of attempted murder, violation of Republic Act 9745 (Anti-Torture Law), violation of Republic Act 7438 (Rights of Accused), Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 (Public Assembly Act), Presidential Decree 1829 (Obstruction of Justice), gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross oppression and for conduct unbecoming of a public officer.

Respondents include Dept. of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista, Phil. National Police (PNP) Director General Ricardo Marquez, PNP Regional Director for Region 12 P/Supt Noel Armilla, PNP Acting Deputy Regional Director For Operations for Region 12 PSSupt. Roberto Badian, North Cotabato PNP Provincial Director P/SSupt. Alexander Tagum, Kidapawan Police Chief P/Insp. John Patrick Calinga, a certain Lt. Col. Birrey, Ground Commander of the PNP Strike Force, P/Dir. Isagani Nerez, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, Commander 10th Infantry Division-Philippine Army; Col. Ronald Villanueva, 1002nd Brigade Commander (GSC), 10th Infantry Division, PA; Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, Battalion Commander 39th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army; Fire Senior Inspector Noa Pacalda; military agent Charlie Pasco aka “Longhair”; SPO4 Dan Occeña Tobias, SPO2 Roderick Caballero, a certain Sgt. Obiano, SPO1 Boynel Lumogdang, P01 Solon and P02 Baldua of the PNP and several John Does of police and military officers and civilian agents of the police and military units operating in Region 12.

The second set of complaints was filed by Gerardo E. Alborme, Bai Ali Indayla, Sheena Duazo, Loreto Felizardo, Zandro Redondo, Mark Anthony Delgado, Dionisio P. Alagos, Crisanto Carlum, Valentina Berden, Jovita Debalid, Lolita Porras, Mirriam Damiog, Arlene Candiban, Eliza Candiban, Rolinda Paonil, Lumeriano Agustin, and Christopher Candiban.

Complainants sought the investigation and prosecution of officials and personnel for the following criminal charges:

a) Republic Act No. 7438 – “An Act Defining Certain Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation, As Well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers”;

b) Republic Act No. 9745 – “An Act Penalizing Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” particularly Sections 4 (b) (9), Section 4 (b) (10) and Section 5 thereof;

c) Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 – “An Act Ensuring the Free Exercise of the Right to Peaceably Assemble and Petition the Government, more particularly under Sections 9, 10 and 13 (e), (f), (g) thereof;

d) Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code – Arbitrary Detention;

e) Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code – Perjury in Solemn Affirmation;

f) Presidential Decree No. 1829- “Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders”

g) All other crimes that the respondents have violated as found by the Honorable Office of the Ombudsman.

The following officials and personnel are respondents to the above-mentioned charges: North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño-Mendoza, members of the North Cotabato Crisis Committee, DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez; Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista; Barangay Captain Lamata of Brgy. Poblacion, Kidapawan City, PNP Regional Director Region 12, Noel Armilla, Provincial Police Director P/Supt. Alexander C. Tagum; PNP Acting Deputy director for Operations, Region 12, PSSupt. Roberto Badian; City Police Director P/Supt. John Miridel R. Calinga; a certain Lt. Col. Birrey, the Ground commander of the PNP Strike Force; Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, the Battalion Commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army; Col. Ronald Villanueva, the 1002nd Brigade Commander, 10th Infantry Division- Philippine Army; elements of the SWAT North Cotabato, elements of 39th Infantry Battalion- Philippine Army, elements of the Bureau of Fire Protection Unit, and 71 named officers in the trumped-up Complaints for Direct Assault Upon Agents of Persons in Authority as well as Frustrated Homicide cases filed against the farmers before the courts of Kidapawan City.

Aside from the criminal liabilities of said government officials, they must be also administratively liable for violations under the provisions of Republic Act No. 6713 “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public officials and Employees, more particularly Sections 4 par. (a) (Commitment to Public Interest; and par. (c) (Justness and Sincerity, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service under Section 46, and Rule 10 of the Civil Service Resolution No. 1101502; the Revised Philippine National Police Operational Procedures (December 2013) particularly on Rule 25 thereof; and the 2007 Philippine National Police Rules of Procedure (Memorandum Circular No. 2007-001) particularly Rule 21 thereof, as well as other violations deemed committed by the respondents as found by the Office of the Honorable Ombudsman.

The farmers also recommended investigation on the following officials for violations of the Republic Act No. 3019 for their negligence and failure to place the proper measures that could have mitigated the effects of El Niño and the possible misappropriation of the calamity funds: Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala; North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño-Mendoza; members of the North Cotabato Crisis Committee; and other government officials.