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Rights group brings Kidapawan case to UN

A HUMAN rights group on Monday filed a complaint against the government before the United Nations, asking it to investigate atrocities against protesting farmers in Kidapawan City, who were shot, beaten and arrested by police on April 1.

In bringing the case to the UN Human Rights Council, the group Karapatan cited the killing, illegal arrest and detention, and other rights violations against the farmers during and after the April 1 dispersal of their protest in Kidapawan, North Cotabato.

The group sought an investigation through Maina Kai, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Seong-Phil Hong, chair-rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Karapatan also submitted the full report of the National Fact-finding and Humanitarian Mission organized by Karapatan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

The report serves as a reference to the complaint filed, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

“It is important that the international community is made aware of these gross human rights violations against the farmers, with all the visible signs of cover-up on the accountability of the Aquino government and the Philippine National Police,” Palabay said.

“We believe that the Philippine state security forces, with the approval of, if not direct orders from top civilian authorities, deliberately and murderously attacked the protesters, grossly violating the farmers’ civil and political rights protected by the Philippine Constitution, law and various international covenants and instruments to which the Philippine government is a signatory,” Palabay said.

The NFHM report to the UN cited various “maneuvers” by the PNP and the local government to destroy evidence, such as clearing the crime scene through the use of bulldozers and water cannons, and the burning of personal effects confiscated from the protesters during and after the dispersal.

The fact-finding body also reported to the UN that authorities prevented paralegals and quick reaction teams from leaving the Spottswood Methodist Center to gather important details and documentation on the incident and provide emergency support to the victims and their families.

Palabay said Karapatan also received initial reports that the family of slain Manobo farmer Darwin Sulang received threats and experienced harassment from the provincial government, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Palabay quoted Ebao Sulang, father of Darwin, who said that on April 6, North Cotabato provincial board member Kelly Antao and Lito Palma of the Office of North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza went to his house and tried to convince the family not to file criminal charges against the governor and the PNP and offered them P100,000. The family refused the offer. 

Unknown men were spotted walking around their house from midnight until 3 a.m. on April 12, Sulang said.

On April 13, relatives of the Sulang family received news that members of the Army were looking for Ebao Sulang. The whole family immediately left and sought refuge from church and human rights groups.

 “This is clearly part of the government’s underhanded moves to dissuade the family from pursuing countercharges,” Palabay said.

Palabay also said that while the 82 illegally arrested and detained farmers have all been released on bail as of April 16, trumped up charges of direct assault and frustrated homicide have yet to be dismissed.

“The arrest and detention of the farmers—of those who were shot, pulled from the protesters’ ranks and tortured by the police, to the elderly and pregnant women farmers, to the mere bystanders—show the inhumanity and callousness of the BS Aquino government institutions on the plight of the farmers,” she said.

Among the recommended actions stated in the NFHM report is the indictment and prosecution of all police operatives on the ground responsible for killings, frustrated killings, illegal arrest and detention, and other criminal acts committed during and after the dispersal.

The group also recommended the investigation and prosecution of President Benigno Aquino III, military and police generals, as well as officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Agriculture, for their participation and complicity in the violent dispersal of the farmers, and the various human rights violations committed as a result.

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