Australian trade union groups and Philippines solidarity networks have joined in protesting over the Kidapawan massacre in the southern island of Mindanao last Friday, leaving 3 dead, 87 missing and 116 wounded.
According to Interaksyon, security forces opened fire as they dispersed farmers and indigenous lumad tribespeople who were blockading the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan City.
The number of wounded had climbed to 116, according to Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, speaking by phone from the United Methodist Church (UMC) compound in Kidapawan. But other reports have indicated a lower number of casualties.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions; Maritime Union of Australia, SEARCH Foundation; Philippines Australia Union Link; Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, and Migrante Australia are among those who have prostested.
A protest letter has been delivered to the Philippines consulate in Sydney.
“We are outraged at the shooting of a large and peaceful protest of farmers in Kidapawan, Mindanao, last Friday morning, by the Philippines National Police,” Peter Murphy, spokesperson for the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, said today.
“We demand action from the Philippines President today, along with protests around the globe.”
The casualty figures given were smaller than those reported by Interaksyon.
A statement by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said he shootings left two people dead, and at least 37 hurt and wounded.
Many were still unaccounted for after the violent dispersal, including women, elderly and six minors.
At least 45 men were illegally arrested and are now under police custody at the Kidapawan Gym, while 27 women (three are pregnant and two senior citizens) were arrested and are now at the Kidapawan City Convention Center.
The rest of the protesters who are in sanctuary at the UMC’s Spottswood Methodist Center continue to experience harassment, as combined elements of the police and military surround the church compound and restrict the entry and exit of farmers, their supporters, and churchgoers.
The farmers mounted the protest against the government’s attention to the much-needed distribution of relief goods and agricultural assistance amid the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.
The government had promised billions of pesos to mitigate the situation. But nothing followed.
The ICHRP called for:
- Immediate independent investigation of the incident;
- Pull-out of police and military elements blocking the entry and exit of protesters and support groups in the UMC compound;
- Release of protesters illegally detained by the PNP;
- Immediate distribution of the rice support and other calamity assistance to the farmers;
- Relief and prosecution of police officials involved in the dispersal and shooting of farmers pending an impartial investigation;
- The accountability of Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and all involved officials;
- The Philippine government to adhere to/respect the basic fundamental right of its citizens to freedom of association and assembly, and to come to its defence and aid when disasters have deprived them of their basic needs.