MANILA, Philippines — The Palace called for calm following a violent dispersal of protesting farmers in North Cotabato, which resulted in casualties and injuries.
“This is a very, very heartbreaking tragedy. Our farmers deserved better than to have to suffer to receive assistance and aid,” Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, said in a radio interview on Saturday.
“All the more so because the assistance and aid is there, they have to go through the process … and this is really.., this compounds the tragedy,” he told dzRB Radyo Ng Bayan.
He said a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation must be carried out immediately to hold those accountable for the violence.
“There is no reason why people must die in order to be asking for assistance from their own government,” he said. At the same time, Quezon said, “there is no reason why a tragedy must be compounded by hotheaded statements or rushing to judgment.”
“It will not help anyone. There’s a tremendous number of wounded people on both sides. Lives have been lost and we owe it to ourselves as a society and to the farmers themselves and people in the affected areas to find out what exactly happened and why it did lead to this,” according to Quezon.
Quezon wonders why the protesters rejected government aid to remedy their hunger by going through a certain process.
The protesters were offered to go to their barangays and register for the cash for work program, and receive family packs from the DSWD but they refused. Quezon said it must be investigated.
The incident could result to the spread of misinformation and agenda setting, he said, warning it’s not helpful to the affected families.
The police leadership ordered an investigation into reports that two farmers were killed while dozens were wounded after being fired upon by police in Kidapawan City.
Reports said still unidentified policemen fired at some 6,000 protesters at 10 a.m. Friday.
The protesters were demanding relief and subsidy for farm communities affected by the dry spell in North Cotabato.
North Cotabato officials said the violence started after some of the protesters attacked policemen escorting a group of social workers out to rescue minors in the barricade set up by the demonstrators along the highway. PNA / northboundasia.com