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Food not Bullets! Drought-stricken Farmers & Lumads seeking Food Aid, Killed & Dispersed

The incident left 2 confirmed dead, 116 wounded (18 of them in critical condition), 89 missing
On March 30, 2016, around 6000 farmers and Lumads (indigenous people of Mindanao) from all over North Cotabato marched to Kidapawan City and picketed the National Food Authority (NFA).  They demanded the release of food aid to alleviate hunger due to massive crop failures caused by El Nino. On the third day of the protest, elements of the Philippine National Police opened fired and violently dispersed an otherwise peaceful assembly.
The incident left 2 confirmed dead, 116 wounded (18 of them in critical condition), 89 missing (including six minors), and two, who were arrested by police elements during the dispersal, were tortured.  Aside from these, the police illegally arrested and detained at least 45 men at the Kidapawan Gym, while 27 women of which three are pregnant and two are senior citizens   at the Kidapawan City Convention Center.
By nighttime, over 4000 of the protesters sought refuge at the United Methodist Church (UMC) compound in the same city. However, the police and military cordoned off the area and cut off the electricity in the compound. The state elements prevented the entry of food, water and medical supplies for the wounded, as well as media and other concerned groups. The protesters spent a tense and hungry night expecting a police raid. Children were crying in hunger.
In a press conference, North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza assumed full responsibility for the incident. However, she also stated that she will block any and all assistance to the starving protesters from concerned groups and individuals, going so far as to say that this insults her governance. She also threatened to file charges against UMC Bishop Ciriaco Francisco for "harboring" the protesters.
The El Nino phenomenon has plagued the country since February 2015. By the end of February 2016, 34% of the country experienced drought, 40% by end of March, and 85% by end of April 2016 (FAO). The prevailing El Niño incurred losses of more than P5-billion to local agriculture as of March.
While Mindanao accounts for over 40% of the Philippines' food requirements and contributes more than 30% to the national food trade, several provinces have already suffered widespread crop damage since late last year. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to stabilize prices of food and basic commodities has declared a state of calamity in drought-stricken cities and provinces such as North Cotabato, Butuan, Zamboanga, General Santos, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Maguindanao, and Guimaras.
Hardest hit are Lumad communities who simultaneously face dislocation and loss of livelihood from their territories due to operations of extractive industries, energy projects and commercial plantations; and human rights violations arising from military operations.  
Recommended actions:
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. Immediate independent investigation of the incident;
2. Pull-out of police and military elements blocking the entry and exit of protesters and support groups in the UMC compound;
3. Release of protesters illegally detained by the PNP;
4. Immediate distribution of the rice support and other calamity assistance to the farmers;
5. Relief and prosecution of police officials involved in the dispersal and shooting of farmers pending an impartial investigation;
6. The accountability of Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and all involved officials; and
7. The Philippine Government to respect the basic fundamental rights of its citizens to freedom of association and assembly, and to
provide necessary aid in disaster situations.
 You may send your communications to:
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Emmanuel L. Caparas
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline: 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
This petition will be delivered to:
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
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