Kidapawan farmers, authorities reach agreement

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Tensions eased between farmers and government forces in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato, as they reached an agreement with the help of church leaders.

As part of the negotiation, police and military troops pulled out of the area on Tuesday (April 5) afternoon.

"The protesters agree to end their rally on the streets. As government forces exit, security personnel of the Methodist Church take over the distribution of donated sacks of rice to the farmers," said Brother Manny de Leon, FMS President of the Notre Dame of Kidapawan College.

But as the situation in Kidapawan City cleared up, militant groups in Manila launched their own protest.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) stormed the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, facing the police picket and vandalizing walls.

They condemned Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, and President Benigno Aquino III for the incident.

"Alcala, Mendoza, and the Aquino administration denied farmers of the government support they need amid the drought," said Roger Soluta, spokesman of KMU. "Governor Mendoza ordered the police to violently disperse the farmers."

KMU also called out PNP-Cotabato for filing charges against the protesters.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesman Police Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor appealed to KMU to be mindful of limitations in conducting demonstrations.

"The Philippine National Police has always respected the freedom of expression of individual," said Mayor.

"On the other hand, once you vandalize government property, it is a violation of law. 'Yun ang hinihiling natin na sa pagsasabi ng kanilang rights. 'Wag silang manira ng properties ng ibang tao lalo na ng gobyerno."

[Translation: On the other hand, once you vandalize government property, it is a violation of law. That is our appeal as they exercise their rights. They should not destroy properties, especially those that belong to the government.]

Alcala broke his silence on the issue in a press conference on Wednesday (April 6).

Although he admitted they fell short on providing relief to the farmers, he believes the protest was politically motivated.

"Alam po ito ng mga tao doon mismo sa lugar. Huwag na po tayo mag maang-maangan. 'Yun pong mga tao doon po sa lugar, alam po nila sino ang mga personalities involved dito," Alcala said.

[Translation: The people in the area know about this. Let us not act as if we do not know anything. Residents know the personalities involved in the rift.]

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) formed two teams to investigate the incident, but is quick to defend the local government, saying it followed due process on the dispersal.