PNP files charges vs Kidapawan protesters

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has filed charges against 43 individuals who they arrested after a violent dispersal of protesting farmers at a highway in Kidapawan City last Friday.

North Cotabato police director Alex Tagum said charges of economic sabotage, illegal assembly, harassment and obstruction to traffic flow were filed before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office in North Cotabato.

The cases were presented to the Cotabato Regional Trial Court Branch 17 on Monday, police said.

The arrested farmers were from the towns of Arakan, Antipa, Magpet and President Roxas.

Tagum said the protests held at the Kidapawan highway were conducted without a permit since Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista gave only the farmers a one-day permit on March 28.

"The mass actions they held from Tuesday (March 29) until Friday (April 1) were without a permit. That's illegal assembly. What was worse, the protesters closed the highway, which paralyzed our traffic and our business here," he said.

The five-day protests resulted in a violent dispersal by police authorities, which resulted in the death of three people.

PNP chief Ricardo Marquez said the farmers wanted to "hostage the government" as they refused to disperse despite attempts by police authorities to calm down the situation.

"They will not settle for anything else. Gusto nilang i-block 'yun (highway). Gusto nilang i-hostage ang government," he said.

"We will file charges of course kasi 'yung isang pulis namin unconscious pa hanggang ngayon. 'Yung isang pulis namin may tama ng bala...The police were there in a legitimate situation," Marquez added.

Marquez said that the police did what they had to do to bring back order in the area.

"We will make sure na 'yung highway na 'yun ay bukas kasi kaya nagkaroon ng law enforcement operation. It has inconvenienced so many people already. We have to put order," the official said.

Tagum said they are also investigating who are responsible and could be held liable for the shooting of the three demonstrators.

Earlier, the PNP said one of the slain farmers tested positive in the paraffin tests and that the Scene of the Crime Operatives team recovered two empty shells of calibre .45 in the area occupied by the protesters and a deformed slug of calibre .38 at a makeshift station occupied by the police responders.

Meanwhile, rally organizers said they are finalizing charges of multiple murder, serious physical injuries, and violation of human rights to be filed against Cotabato Governor Lala Talino-Mendoza, and several police officials involved in the violent dispersal.

Anakbayan Philippines chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said representatives of militant groups and other concerned organizations from Manila will be going to Cotabato to help them in gathering more evidences and data for the case filing. (Sunnex)

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