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Dispersed Kidapawan folk file countersuits vs police, officials

Elderly women were among those charged by police in the aftermath of the dispersal of the farmers' rally. Photograph from Karapatan.

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Reports reaching Manila indicated that the farmers from Kidapawan in Cotabato Province who were violently dispersed by police for staging a protest rally on April 1 have filed countersuits against 94 members of the police force, as well as military and local officials.

Atty. Edre Olalia, one of the lawyers of the farmers, informed on Monday that the first batch of complaints for illegal arrest and detention were filed by 17 farmers against 77 respondents, while the second batch was filed by five farmers against 17 respondents.

The complaints were lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman in Davao City.

"Despite the odds, the famished Kidapawan farmers decided to bite the bullet by taking the first legal step in the long, risky and tortuous journey to seek justice, fight back, and make accountable the high and mighty," Olalia, who is with the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), said.

The complainants, except for one, were all earlier detained and charged by the police for direct assault in connection with the April 1 incident.

At least 82 persons, many of them farmers, were arrested, detained and charged for allegedly attacking the police during the melee that started when heavily armed members of the Philippine National Police broke through the barricade of the rallying farmers, who were suffering from the ill effects of the El Niño induced drought and were asking for rice subsidy from the local government.

The farmers said the El Niño climate phenomenon has dried their lands, killed their crops and resulted in a severe shortage of their food supply.

The farmers were released on bail after more than a week in detention.

"We are not cowed by the sinister government attempts to harass and intimidate us and to cover up for these officials' accountability. We filed this case as part of our continuing search for justice and fight against impunity," Gerry Alborme, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)-North Cotabato spokesperson and one of the complainants in the case, said.

The farmers sought the investigation and prosecution of officials and personnel for the following criminal charges:

  • Republic Act No. 7438 - "An Act Defining Certain Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation, As Well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers";
  • Republic Act No. 9745 – "An Act Penalizing Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment" particularly Sections 4 (b) (9), Section 4 (b) (10) and Section 5 thereof;
  • Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 – "An Act Ensuring the Free Exercise of the Right to Peaceably Assemble and Petition the Government, more particularly under Sections 9, 10 and 13 (e), (f), (g) thereof;
  • Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code – Arbitrary Detention;
  • Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code – Perjury in Solemn Affirmation;
  • Presidential Decree No. 1829- "Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders"
  • All other crimes that the respondents have violated as found by the Honorable Office of the Ombudsman.

The following officials and personnel are respondents to the above-mentioned charges:

  • North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño-Mendoza
  • Members of the North Cotabato Crisis Committee
  • DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento
  • PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez
  • Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista
  • Barangay Captain Lamata of Brgy. Poblacion, Kidapawan City
  • PNP Region 12 Director Noel Armilla
  • Provincial Police Director P/Supt. Alexander C. Tagum
  • PNP Acting Deputy director for Operations, Region 12, PSSupt. Roberto Badian
  • City Police Director P/Supt. John Miridel R. Calinga
  • A certain Lt. Col. Birrey, Ground commander of the PNP Strike Force
  • Lt. Col. Arnold Argamosa, the Battalion Commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army
  • Col. Ronald Villanueva, 1002nd Brigade Commander, 10th Infantry Division-Philippine Army
  • Elements of the SWAT North Cotabato
  • Elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army
  • Elements of the Bureau of Fire Protection Unit, and
  • Some 71 named officers in the Complaints for Direct Assault Upon Agents of Persons in Authority as well as Frustrated Homicide cases filed against the farmers before the courts of Kidapawan City.

Aside from the criminal liabilities of these government officials, the farmers alleged that the respondents must be also administratively liable for violations under the provisions of Republic Act No. 6713 "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public officials and Employees, more particularly Sections 4 par. (a) (Commitment to Public Interest; and par. (c) (Justness and Sincerity, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service under Section 46, and Rule 10 of the Civil Service Resolution No. 1101502; the Revised Philippine National Police Operational Procedures (December 2013) particularly on Rule 25 thereof; and the 2007 Philippine National Police Rules of Procedure (Memorandum Circular No. 2007-001) particularly Rule 21 thereof, as well as other violations deemed committed by the respondents as found by the Office of the Honorable Ombudsman.

The farmers also recommended the investigation on the following officials for violations of Republic Act No. 3019 for their negligence and failure to put in place the proper measures that could have mitigated the effects of El Niño and the possible misappropriation of the calamity funds:

  • Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala
  • North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño-Mendoza
  • Members of the North Cotabato Crisis Committee and other government officials.

 

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights advocacy group, Karapatan, said the farmers were assisted by human rights lawyers from the Union of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) and Public Interest Law Center (PILC), and paralegals from Karapatan and Children's Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

"Our struggle for food, land and justice is legitimate, and we will pursue justice in every possible way," said KMP's Alborme.

Ebao Sulang, father of slain farmer Darwin Sulang, lamented that President Benigno Aquino III had already absolved the police for the crimes committed against the farmers.

"Mr. Aquino and his Liberal Party are employing all means to stop us from seeking accountability," he said.

Elderly and pregnant women farmers were also among the complainants who filed the case.

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