SEARICE STATEMENT

Justice for the Farmers

13 April 2016

SEARICE strongly condemns the violent dispersal of the farmers in Kidapawan, North Cotabato which killed three and wounded many others. The blatant violation of the farmers’ human rights and disregard for their lives is utterly deplorable. We demand justice for the farmers and accountability to those who are responsible.

The dispersal of the protesting farmers is unacceptable in many ways; more so the execution of such dispersal with the use of violence. The farmers—hungry and unarmed—were drawing attention to their plight and asking for help. Why the presence, and eventual use, of firearms to disperse them? Not only were the farmers denied help, they were also denied their right to free speech and to assembly. They were denied protection—and for those who perished, their right to life—by the very people whose mandate was to protect and uphold them.

Furthermore, we denounce the subsequent attempt to dismiss the farmers’ rally as merely an act borne out of instigation by organizations with vested interests. Reducing the farmers’ mass action as merely prompted by such groups is to trivialize the farmers’ dire need for food and more so belittle their capacity to determine their needs and make decisions of their own. Moreover, dismissing it to such would be tantamount to giving justification to the acts of violence accorded to the farmers and to the inaction of some that forced the farmers out of the fields and into the streets.

No. This is not about the “left” versus the “right.” Neither is it about the “opposition” and the “administration.” And no, the farmers should not be treated as mere collateral damage.

Whereas it may be true that there were groups who joined in the mass action, these groups’ presence does not discount the fact that the farmers and their families were starving. If ever, the presence of such groups is an expression of solidarity and also an exercise of right to help the farmers articulate their just demands as any conscious member of the society should.

The collective action of the farmers was not just an action of the hungry, but more so an act of the dying.

Their demands are just and their plights very real and it could not get any more real than when the very persons who produce food are the very same persons who don’t have food.

The farmers were on the streets to ask for help from the government—help that any responsible and accountable government should extend towards its people.

The farmers were merely asking for food, not bullets—plain and simple.

We call upon everyone to condemn the violence against the farmers! We also call for the prosecution of everyone involved in the violent dispersal and of the concerned officials for their continued inaction to the appalling condition of the farmers!

We demand for the upholding of the people’s right to life, right to food, and right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly!

Let us defend farmers’ rights! Farmers’ rights are human rights!

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