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Cops search for guns in protesting farmers' shelter, go home empty handed

Local News • 02:27 AM Sun Apr 3, 2016
Malu Manar
(Calm before the storm. Farmers holding picket along Kidapawan City highway rest on the eve of the dispersal. (Photo by Malu Manar)

KIDAPAWAN CITY -Operatives of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) in Region 12 and Cotabato Provincial Police Office (CPPO) searched at least seven buildings located inside the Spottswood Methodist Center, which is being used as temporary shelter of the more than 5,000 protesters that staged mass protests blocking the Makilala-Kidapawan highway here since Wednesday.The search turned out negative, though, police reports said. Authorities were looking for possible evidences, which they could use against those they arrested after the dispersal Friday. At least 43 rallyists are being held for interrogation by the Kidapawan police and were temporarily placed inside the city gym.The city government is now readying charges of economic sabotage, obstruction of traffic flow, exploitation of women and children, and harassment against them, including five of the rally organizers.City Mayor Joseph Evangelista said while farmers are demanding for justice after what happened during the dispersal, the wounded policemen and other security personnel also deserve fair treatment and justice. I pity our policemen.They are there to secure the highway.We observed maximum tolerance,” he said. By maximum tolerance the mayor said cops were told to just carry their ‘batutas’ (truncheons)not guns and used wood or steel shields to protect them from being hurt during the law enforcement operation. He said policemen who carried M16 rifles were deployed at the other side of the road, not at the middle of the picket line. But when a cop, identified as Senior Police Officer 2 Ric Untalan of the M’lang municipal police station, was shot and being attacked by angry rallyists, it was the time the PNP allegedly used guns to rescue their wounded comrade. The dispersal left three people, two of them protesters, dead and at least 200 wounded from both sides. Reports from the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) showed that of the 92 farmers hurt during the violent incident on Friday, 30 of them are in critical condition.At least 90 other protesters are missing as of Friday, reports added. Killed were Rogelio Daelto and Virgilio Lumundang, both residents of Barangay Binoongan, Arakan. Another civilian, identified as Enrico Fabrica, also died.Reports said he had a heart attack after he witnessed the violence.There were also reports saying he died of heat stroke. Among those hurt were identified as Alan Jampas of Barangay Meocan, Arakan Ernie Carmelo of Barangay Doruluman, Arakan Rodolfo Tanio of Barangay Binoongan, Arakan a certain Ilyong of Barangay Tongao, Magpet and Sheena Duazo of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN Muna) Southern Mindanao region. Duazo, including representatives from militant Gabriela, Anakbayan, Anakpawis, and Kabataan, joined the protesters to support farmers’ mass actions. On the government side, Evangelista said at least 102 policemen, three of them in critical situation, were also wounded. The farmers were demanding for at least 15,000 sacks of rice coming from the National Food Authority (NFA), which they could carry back home.They demanded the rice from Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza.Mendoza, however, stressed they could not heed to farmers’ demand as it would violate existing laws, and government’s auditing and accounting policies and regulations as regards release of calamity funds. The province, she explained, could only release as subsidy, at least 500 bags of rice in a month. They needed 15,000 bags?No, that can’t be done.What about other constituents who, just like them, were also hit by El Nino yet?” she said. Mendoza said her government and other local chief executives of the city and from five towns in North Cotabato took full responsibility of what happened last Friday. This was a very unfortunate incident.Nobody wanted this to happen.We all just want order and security,” the governor said.

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