By PhilRights Staff
It has been two years since that hot day in April 2016 where drought-affected farmers demanding aid were violently dispersed in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato. The violence led to the death of one farmer and the wounding of 13 others.
Since then, the Philippines has transitioned from the Aquino administration to the Duterte administration. If the Aquino administration was marred by lip services to human rights, the Duterte administration seems to revel in its wholesale dismissal.
Victims of state violence from the PNoy-era catastrophe have yet to receive justice and are unlikely to do so under the current Duterte administration where death and violence committed by state forces are almost routine.
Two years from the carnage of Kidapawan, the Philippines’ rice stockpile remains precarious with the National Food Authority (NFA) exhausting its rice supply. This raises questions about the government’s readiness in responding to farmers’ crises situations, such as that 2016 drought that decimated crops and livelihoods of Mindanao farmers, which led to the Kidapawan protest actions and the bloodshed that followed.
Two years from the carnage of Kidapawan, Mindanao has been put under twice-extended Martial Law. The cry of the Kidapawan protesters two years ago, Bigas, hindi bala! (Rice not bullets!) continues to be relevant. Rural communities continue to face the specter of violence, this time from military occupation in peasant communities and unlawful targeting of Lumad education activists.
The carnage of Kidapawan highlights how human rights—including economic, social and cultural rights—are interrelated and interdependent. The callous disrespect for the militant peasants’ right to adequate food readily translated to a callous disrespect for their right to life as police and military men shot live rounds into the crowd of 6,000.
Ultimately, the carnage of Kidapawan was rooted in long-delayed land reform, weak government structures, and impunity in local government. Given the dearth of sufficiently articulated policies that would address these root causes, and indeed, the presence of policies that contravene any progressive steps towards improving the lives of our farmers, we are forced to ask: What prevents a repeat of the carnage of Kidapawan?