Palace wants probe on violent dispersal of North Cotabato farmers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Malacañang on Saturday (April 2) called for calm following a violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato that resulted in at least three casualties and many injuries.

In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said the incident was “a very, very heartbreaking tragedy.”

“Our farmers deserved better than to have to suffer to receive assistance and aid."

Quezon said a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation must be carried out immediately to hold those accountable for the violence.

“There is no reason why people must die in order to be asking for assistance from their own government," said Quezon.

According to reports, still unidentified members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) allegedly fired at some 6,000 protesters, Friday morning (April 1).

The protesters, mostly farmers, demanded for relief and subsidy for communities that were gravely affected by the dry spell in North Cotabato.

North Cotabato officials said the violence started after some of the protesters attacked policemen escorting a group of social workers out to rescue minors in the barricade set up by the demonstrators along the highway.

Also read: PH gov’t under fire over violent Kidapawan dispersal

Incident could lead to agenda setting

Quezon pointed out that the public must not make hurried statements and rushed judgements based on emotions.

"It will not help anyone. There’s a tremendous number of wounded people on both sides. Lives have been lost and we owe it to ourselves as a society and to the farmers themselves and people in the affected areas to find out what exactly happened and why it did lead to this," said Quezon.

According to Quezon, there were reports that protesters allegedly rejected government aid and that some of them would not want to be subjected to a process.

Local officials earlier claimed, the protesters were told to register for the cash for work program and receive family packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), but they refused.

Quezon said it must be investigated, since the incident could result to the spread of misinformation and agenda setting.