1 April – At least one person was confirmed dead and six others wounded, with several others still unaccounted for, when security forces opened fire on farmers andlumad who have been blockading the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan City late Friday morning with organizers reporting still unspecified casualties, including children.
InterAksyon.com could hear gunshots in the background as Jerome Succor Aba, spokesman of Moro human rights group Suara Bangsamoro, described the situation.
Aba said the firing began soon after Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista arrived at the protest site.
Pedro Arnado, chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Cotabato chapter, which spearheaded the protest, said Evangelista, the chairman of Kidapawan’s Barangay Polblacion and the city chief of police ordered protest leaders to disperse.
“We told them that all we wanted was relief from the drought, especially the rice, and we would leave,” he said, “but the chief of police insisted that they would disperse us by force if we did not leve.”
“Soon after, firetrucks bombarded us with water cannon and riot police began moving in and striking protesters with their batons. When the protesters resisted, they started shooting at us,” he said. “At first, despite the casualties, the farmers stood their ground and wanted to fight back but we ordered a withdrawal to avoid more harm from happening.”
He said at least three of the wounded were in serious condition.
It took some time for ambulances to arrive and rush the injured to hospitals because police were blocking the gates of the Methodist Center, where many of the protesters shought refuge, Arnado and Norma Capuyan of the lumad organization Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa-Cotabato said.
“We fear many more have been hurt because many of our companions remain unaccounted for,” she added, Capuyan said.