For Immediate Release
April 6, 2016
Tina Cocadiz, GABRIELA NY Vice Chairperson
Rice Not Bullets! GABRIELA NY Stands with the Indigenous Lumad and Farmers of Kidapawan!
GABRIELA New York vehemently condemns the state terror inflicted on protesting farmers and indigenous Lumad in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, Mindanao on April 1, 2016. Having endured several months of drought as a result of El Niño, men, women and children peacefully demanded food and relief aid they were promised from the government but were met with bullets instead of rice.
More than 6,000 starving farmers, their families, community members and leaders convened in North Cotabato on March 30th, 2016. Having suffered devastating losses to their livelihoods where they lost 75% to 100% of their crops, they gathered to call on the government to deliver the 15,000 bags of rice promised by the Philippine government. After a few days of peaceful protest, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other enforcement forces escalated the situation and opened fire upon the unarmed protesters with high-powered rifles.
In the aftermath, at least 5 people were killed (2 reportedly women), 116 were injured (18 critically wounded), 89 are currently reported missing (including women, elderly and 6 children), and 2 have been reported tortured (Ondo Paonel and his wife, Leonara Paonel both who are still missing). Currently the surviving protestors are being detained at Spottswood, United Methodist Church, Kidapawan City. The PNP have surrounded the remaining protesters and will not allow the wounded to be relocated to hospitals. Among those attacked on the frontlines of the violent dispersal was Bai Ali Indalya, GABRIELA Women’s Partylist 3rd Nominee and Secretary General of Suara Bangsamoro, who delivered the keynote address at the GABRIELA USA 3rd National Congress in San Francisco last month.
Due to global climate change, El Niño has had devastating impacts in the Philippines and destroyed at least 27,500 hectares of crops in this province just last year. As of January 2016, the government has promised assistance to the suffering communities, but the farmers have yet to see a single grain of rice or relief.
The Aquino administration continues to ignore and suppress the people’s demands for justice. The administration allows for the plundering of fertile land that are rich in natural resources only to appease foreign corporate interests. While corporate and politician pockets grow, peasant farmers and Lumad communities face rampant exploitation of their lands. The Kidapawan massacre is yet another act of terror under the Aquino regime, following the Lianga massacre of three Lumad community leaders in September 2015 and the Mamasapano massacre in January 2015.
“We must ask ourselves why the PNP were carrying high-powered rifles to fire upon unarmed protestors. We must ask why among those killed, missing and tortured are women and children. This massacre exposes the state repression, fascism and violence that Filipinos face under US-backed President Aquino who is bent on profit over Filipino lives,” said Cole Carothers, Chairperson of GABRIELA NY who integrated in a Lumad community last summer. “And we must ask ourselves why the Philippines has the richest natural resources in the world, yet the people are some of the poorest. It is only through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform that poverty and hunger will no longer be a crisis.”
GABRIELA New York demands that President B.S. Aquino, Governor Lala Talino-Mendoza and the PNP be held accountable for these egregious acts of terror against the people and gross violations of human rights. We stand alongside the farmers, women, children, community members and activists that have faced state repression and militarization as they assert their rights to food, land and livelihood.
Join the call for a Global Day of Action on the Kidapawan Massacre on April 8th and intensify the international call for justice and accountability for the victims of the Kidapawan massacre. Also join us for a human rights forum on May 21st in New York as part of Lakbay Lumad USA, a speaking tour with indigenous Lumad activists who are traveling throughout the United States to advocate against the ongoing militarization of Mindanao, and to educate on ways to get involved and contribute to their fight for genuine peace with justice.
Justice for the North Cotabato farmers!
Bigas hindi bala! Rice not bullets!
Stop Lumad Killings!