Vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. today condemned the violent dispersal of the drought-hit farmers barricading in a highway in Kidapawan City saying the use of bullets was “completely unnecessary.”
“I deplore the use of bullets to answer legitimate demands of our farmers and their families in North Cotabato. They are hungry and they are just asking for food so they can feed their families. The violent dispersal was completely unnecessary,” he said adding that the police should have instead negotiated with the protesters.
Reports have indicated that at least one person was killed and 8 others, all identified as farmers, have been shot and wounded during the dispersal by Kidapawan City police forces.
The famine-hit farmers complaining of hunger have set up barricades at the Davao-Cotabato Highway in Kidapawan City since Wednesday. They were asking for the release of the province’s calamity fund and rice supplies as well as other government support to their condition.
Marcos then urged the creation of an inter-agency committee to address the situation and start a dialogue. “Cooler heads must take the lead so we can come up with a win-win solution to their plight. The farmers are just asking for food to feed their children and it is lamentable that the government has answered them with bullets,” he said.
Marcos, who had repeatedly made calls to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to speed up programs to help farmers in the drought-hit areas in the country, especially in Mindanao, said the farmers’ resort to blocking the Davao-Cotabato national highway in Kidapawan to demand rice distribution is a manifestation that the government has not done enough to address their condition.
“It is an act of desperation and I could not blame them. They are hungry for months, their crops are gone, damaged by El Niño. This should be a wake-up call to our government, our DA officials especially to double their efforts to help them,” he said.
Marcos said the DA should account for the P2.1 billion specially earmarked to assist farmers affected by the drought conditions caused byEl Niño and spur agricultural production in the first quarter of 2016.
“The question now is, how is the DA spending the P2.1 billion budget set to help our drought-affected farmers? The DA should explain so that the government can fine-tune the programs set and if needed, allocate more funds to augment it,” he pointed out.