KIDAPAWAN City (Update)-- The Philippine National Police in the Socksargen Region has relieved two of its top police officers in North Cotabato province after a violent dispersal of thousands of protesting farmers resulting to deaths and injuries.
The protesting peasants withheld traffic flow along the highway for four days prior to the violent dispersal that claimed the lives of two farmers and wounding of over a hundred peasants and anti-riot cops.
Police Senior Superintendent Danilo Peralta, administrative head of PNP–Socksargen Region confirmed Friday the relief of Police Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum as the provincial director and Police Superintendent John Calinga as Kidapawan police director.
The relief order stemmed from the law enforcement operation currently being investigated by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Peralta stressed that such directive is a standard operating procedure to any officer that will undergo investigation.
The same order stipulated that Police Superintendent Jose Briones, concurrent provincial police operations chief, would seat as North Cotabato police officer-in-charge while Police Superintendent Noel Kinazo, provincial police office deputy chief for administration, acts as Calinga’s replacement.
Both Tagum and Calinga are mandated to submit themselves to the ongoing investigation, Peralta said.
On Thursday a Senate committee hearing on justice and human rights were held at the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City but produced no results as to who ordered the violent dispersal.
While the bishop of Spottswood United Methodist Church, where thousands of these farmers took shelter, said in the hearing that members of the military occupied the church’s compound without his permission.
Bishop Ciriaco Francisco said it was ‘unusual’ that even church members were asked to log in and out of the compound by the military personnel.
The hearing was attended by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, representatives from the Commission on Human Rights, police, religious groups and farmers
Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista was also invited to the hearing but was not able to attend. The hearing was presided by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who was joined by Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Alan Peter Cayetano.
During the hearing, the CHR appealed to the police to review the cases it filed against the farmers they arrested over the incident. It said some of the persons detained include several elderly and pregnant women.
It also said that its report on the incident will be available in the coming weeks.
Some of the farmers who testified during the hearing narrated what happened since March 29.
Edu Sulang, one of those who joined the protest and father of one of the fatalities, asked for justice for the death of his son, Darwing Sulang, 22.
He said his son was reported missing after the violent dispersal on April 1, and he only learned that he was killed in the incident after he saw a video showing his son lying on the ground bloodied.
He said he saw his son on April 3 already at the morgue, with many blows in the head.
"Nganong gigabas-gabas man gyud ang ulo niya?" asked Sulang, adding he wanted to know what caused the death of his son.
Ephraim Cortes, the counsel for the witnesses, said that based on the autopsy report on Sulang's son, Darwin died due to blunt trauma to the head.
"But based on the evidence, it was not due to blunt trauma, but bullet wounds," he said.
Cortes said they are also waiting for the autopsy result conducted by the CHR.
Meanwhile, the remaining 1,114 farmers staying at the compound of a Spottswood returned home on Thursday to their respective communities in the province.
Jerry Alborme, provincial chair of Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas, said each peasant went home with 25 kilos of rice over donations that reached 1,223 bags following the dispersal incident.
He said that out of the total rice donation, 245 bags were consumed during the rally while the residual 978 bags had been divided among the 1,024 at the United Methodist Church compound, 79 who are currently detained and 11 others confined at the hospital.
Alborme said upcoming rice donations would be coursed through the Philippine National Red Cross and partners due to existing Commission on Election regulations that prohibits government entities on releasing funds in context to the May 9, 2016 national and local polls. (PNA/Sunnex)