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PNP can't mount credible probe of Kidapawan - Bayan
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine National Police’s investigation into Friday’s violent dispersal of protesters in Kidapawan City would be “devoid of any credibility,” making an independent probe necessary, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said Director General Ricardo Marquez had ordered the “activation” of a fact-finding team composed of Director Isagani Nerez, Senior Superintendent Felix Servita, Superintendents Danny Macerin, Reneirio De Chavez, and Daniel Macatlang, with Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP Directorate for Investigative and Detective Management, also “there to look into the incident.”

However, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said leaving the investigation to the PNP and the Department of Interior and Local Government would only lead to a cover up of law enforcers’ culpability in the dispersal of thousands of farmers and lumad who had barricaded the Cotabato-Davao highway last week to demand government relief from months of severe drought.

At least three protesters were killed and more than a hundred persons, including police personnel, injured.

Reyes noted that, the day after the violence, Interior Secretary Mel Sarmiento handed out medals to the police personnel involved and “practically cleared the entire police force.”

“The PNP officials involved were not even relieved immediately after the incident” but “were allowed to continue harassing the farmers,” Reyes said.

Following Friday’s dispersal, scores of police personnel, many of them heavily armed, were stationed in front of the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan, which had provided sanctuary to the protesters, conducting a futile search for guns in the compound on Saturday and preventing 300 farmers who had arrived Sunday from Makilala from entering. The police pulled out from the area only on Tuesday afternoon.

Religious, human rights and civil society groups that have been assisting the farmers and have conducted their own fact-finding mission also complained that authorities had tried to thwart their search for the bodies of the fatalities, hospitalized protesters, and more than 70 others who had been arrested and detained.

“How in the world do we expect the PNP to investigate itself?” Reyes asked, noting that police “suspected of planting evidence on a dead protester” and that, “this early on, there are already clear signs of a cover-up.”

“An independent probe is necessary,” he said.

Supporters of the Cotabato farmers have called for nationwide protests on April 8, a week after the Kidapawan dispersal, to highlight their demands for “food and justice.”