For Immediate Release
Rice Not Bullets! Filipino Community and Allies Protest Massacre of Drought-Stricken Mindanao Farmers at the Philippine Consulate
NEW YORK - Yesterday, almost one hundred Filipinos and allies gathered at the Philippine consulate to condemn the massacre of drought-stricken farmers and indigenous Lumads by the Philippine National Police in Kidapawan City, Mindanao. Called for by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) USA Northeast, the protest carried through despite the rain and police barricades, joining the international outcry against state repression and violence towards the Kidapawan farmers. From Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Filipinos are joining together in outrage, demanding that justice be served for the farmers and that the Aquino administration be held immediately accountable.
The massacre in Kidapawan began when 6,000 farmers blockaded a national highway in the southern Philippine province of Cotabato. They were protesting for the release of 15,000 bags of rice as part of calamity funds to support their families in the face of severe El Niño-induced drought. Mindanao farmers lost almost 70% to 100% of their food crops, resulting in thousands of households starving and without livelihood, many forced to eat their own feed. The protest escalated on April 1st when Philippine National Police indiscriminately opened fire at the human blockade, leaving 6 dead and 116 injured. Those killed were already on their knees when they were shot by the police and many were beaten with batons and water cannons. Now, thousands of farmers are seeking refuge in the Kidapawan Methodist Church, which is currently under threat of getting their business permit revoked by the municipal government for “harboring the leaders and members of illegal demonstrators.”
This massacre is not the first time that Philippine farmers and indigenous peoples have faced repression from their own government when they organized and protested for their rights. Both Aquino administrations have been responsible for numerous incidents of state-inflicted violence and terror towards peasants, with a track record of the Mendiola massacre, Hacienda Luisita massacre (which was owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family), Mamasapano massacre, Lianga massacre, and now the Kidapawan massacre. Recognizing this, protesters at yesterday’s rally held bloodied rice bags as props, decrying President Aquino as the massacre king. They chanted “Bigas hindi bala! Bugas dili bala! Rice not bullets!” calling on the Philippine government to be accountable to its people by providing food and relief, not killing or terrorizing the people who are already being deprived of their basic human right to food and livelihood.
The Kidapawan massacre also comes at a time in which the island of Mindanao faces intensifying militarization and human rights abuses. More than 6,000 indigenous Lumads have been forcibly displaced by military forces, leaving them without access to their land and livelihood. More than 60% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is deployed to the one island of Mindanao, acting as “Investment Defense Forces” to secure land for local and foreign corporations that seek to extract the island’s trillion dollars worth of minerals and natural resources. “While we condemn the grave human rights violations of the Philippine government and its military and police forces, we must recognize how foreign imperialist interference plays a direct role in this violence against the people in the countryside of Mindanao,” said Theresa Endoso, member of Anakbayan New York, who stayed with indigenous Lumad communities for four months and saw first hand the plight of peasant and indigenous farmers. “Had it not been for the World Bank funded Public-Private Partnership Program (PPP) which is rapidly privatizing irrigation systems across the Philippines, the farmers in Cotabato may not have been as severely affected by the drought. These farmers are indentured to a semi-feudal land system, exploited by neoliberal markets when they are growing crops, and when they are unable to grow crops, they are still not fed even by calamity funds.”
BAYAN USA Northeast calls on the international community, especially Filipinos living abroad, to condemn the Kidapawan massacre and ongoing state repression of communities and activists, and support the struggle for a truly just and peaceful society. “The vast majority of Filipinos overseas left the country in search of livelihood. We still cannot find jobs in our own country and so we leave to ensure our families can eat. In essence, the diaspora is a result of the same conditions of poverty, hunger, and landlessness that drives farmers and Lumads into misery,” said Berna Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “We are with the farmers and Lumads standing for their right to food, land, and livelihood. As overseas Filipinos, our dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat. This economic power must also translate to political power. We have a responsibility to act in favor of an alternative system that is sustainable and puts people’s needs over profits.”
The Northeast region of BAYAN USA will join the call for a Global Day of Action on the Kidapawan Massacre on April 8th. Submissions of solidarity statements are encouraged from allied organizations to strengthen the international call for justice and accountability for the victims of the Kidapawan massacre. There will also be a human rights forum on May 21st in New York as part of Lakbay Lumad USA, a speaking tour with indigenous Lumad activists who are traveling throughout the United States to advocate against the ongoing militarization of Mindanao and to educate on ways to get involved and contribute to their fight for genuine peace with justice.
STOP THE KILLINGS!
JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE KIDAPAWAN MASSACRE!
BIGAS HINDI BALA! FOOD NOT BULLETS!
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BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As the only international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.