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Mayor denies knowledge about Arakan farmers joining protest

 • 03:12 AM Fri Apr 8, 2016
Ferdinandh Cabrera

ARAKAN, North Cotabato – The town mayor here has denied reports insinuating the local government has been remiss in its duty to extend rice assistance to farmers severely affected by the long dry spell.Mayor Rene Rubino of Arakan also denied prior knowledge some of his constituents have moved to Kidapawan City on March 31 to join the farmers’ protest that ended up bloody, leaving three person killed, including one of his constituents. We did not ignore them, in fact as early as October last year we have been distributing relief assistance to farmers hardest hit by the drought,” Rubino said. I have documents to probe this,” he added.When asked whether politics got in the way, Rubino saidand There could be politics behind and there could be none, no one can say, its election season.”Rubino also said his office has already extended burial assistance in cash and a sack of rice to the family of Darwin Sulang, one of the fatalities in the April 1 bloody dispersal of farmer protesters.In the same breath, he appealed to his kababayan” who are still at Spottswood compound of the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan City to return home because rice assistance are ready for distribution.”He said the Philippine National Red Cross personnel will be the one to distribute the rice assistance since the Commission on Elections prohibits elected officials or its relatives from distributing aid to farmers affected by El Nino phenomenon.The North Cotabato provincial government will start distributing rice assistance to farmers in 17 municipalities and Kidapawan City.More than 4,000 farmers from upland towns of Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas, Magpet and other municipalities went to Kidapawan begging for rice and blocked portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.On April 1, they were dispersed by ill-equipped, undertrained policemen which led to riot, throwing of stones and shooting. And when the smoke was cleared, three farmers were killed and about 160 were hurt, 90 of whom were policemen.The melee has gained international attention with various groups, including political aspirants, sending rice for the protesters instead after North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza rejected farmers’ demands for rice. (Ferdinandh Cabrera)

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