Karapatan on the dismissal of charges vs 43 farmers in Kidapawan

Karapatan welcomes the long overdue decision of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in Kidapawan City to dismiss the criminal case of direct assault on persons in authority filed in April 2016 against 43 farmers, who sought urgent food aid amid government’s lack of a comprehensive response to the damage, hunger and disaster wrought by the drought brought about by the El Niño phenomenon.

On the morning of April 1, 2016, elements of the Philippine National Police violently dispersed 6,000 farmers in a protest rally in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, Philippines. Two persons were killed and 11 were injured due to gunshot wounds, while nearly 100 had been arrested and detained, including pregnant women and elderly women farmers.

On April 25, 2016, the farmers filed multiple criminal and administrative charges against national and local officials, including then Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, National Police Director Ricardo Marquez, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista, former North Cotabato Police Director Alexander Tagum, Former Kidapawan City Police Director John Meredel Calinga and the brigade commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion and members of the PNP Dispersal Team at the Office of the Ombudsman Mindanao in Davao City. There is no known development regarding these charges.

Seven years of subjecting the farmers to this harassment case and the continuing non-resolution of their cases against government officials and State security forces are illustrative of the state of impunity in the Philippines. No amount of baseless accusations against the farmers has undermined the legitimacy of their demands and causes, even as the government’s negligence in addressing the impacts of climate change on peasant and indigenous communities remains prevalent.

We call on the Ombudsman to issue its likewise long-overdue resolution on the criminal and administrative complaints filed by the farmers, as we express support for their continuing struggle for justice.#