Rice Not Bullets, “Bigas Hindi Bala”: NAFCON Joins Global Indignation of Kidapawan Massacre

Bigas Hindi BalaOn April 1st, in the face of hunger and starvation due to drought caused by El Nino, nearly five thousand farmers and their supporters in Cotabato Southern Philippines demanded assistance from the government. Instead of support, the Philippine National Police (PNP) indiscriminately opened fire at the large crowd of people leaving at least 3 dead, 87 missing, and 116 injured.

They suffered through months of having no crops to harvest and no support from their government. Desperate to feed their families and communities, they barricaded a major highway and vowed to stay there until North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Tilino-Mendoza responded to their demand for 15,000 sacks of rice and calamity assistance. Instead she ordered the PNP to violently disperse the thousands of farmers that included women and children.

“It was already inhumane for the government to withhold assistance to the thousands of its citizens demanding help, but there truly are no words to explain the vile nature of these officials who think it is OK to shoot and kill innocent people desperately seeking assistance from their representatives,” said Terrence Valen, President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).

Despite global outrage regarding what is now known as the “Kidapawan Massacre,” Gov. Mendoza has attempted to justify the killings saying, “The first shot came from the protesters.”  Although many say Mendoza’s claim is fabricated, NAFCON believes it is wrong to frame the issue around who shot first. Rather, NAFCON highlights the responsibility of the government to serve the needs of more than 5,000 of its people starving in the face of several months of drought.

“At the heart of the issue are two things: First and foremost is the Philippine government’s continuous failure to prioritize and act on the most basic needs of its people. Second, and even more disturbing, is its long-standing practice of not only ignoring its responsibility, but also engaging in the practice of violently suppressing the cries of it’s people who are demanding what is only fair and just by beating and killing the starving and hungry,” continued Valen.

NAFCON believes the Kidapawan massacre exemplifies why it is so important for all good and peace-loving people to take action and protest the pervasive trend of corruption and greed synonymous with Philippine governance.

“Even I, a Filipino who lives in America, have personally met during visits to the Philippines too many leaders of communities who were harassed, kidnapped, tortured, or have even now been killed in the government’s attempt to instill fear and ‘maintain order’ among those who dare to speak the truth and point at a government that every day steals tax dollars and public resources to get rich at the detriment of the common good,” said Jun Cruz, NAFCON Communications Officer.

“To me, all of us who care about being Filipino and the Philippines, all of us who believe in the teachings of Jesus to help the poor, and all of us who just believe in what is right, have to join in the effort to support the victims of the Kidapawan massacre and work to build something better for the Philippines,” continued Cruz.            

NAFCON encourages the community in the U.S to do whatever it can to respond to this tragedy. In the wake of the massacre NAFCON invites all concerned to join in efforts to reach out to local Philippine consulates to voice their concerns and organize or join actions in various public venues to educate the public about the issue. NAFCON also encourages people to do simple things like monitor news updates, share social media posts, and talk about the struggle of these farmers with their family and friends.

NAFCON also holds Philippine President Aquino responsible who has said nothing about the massacre. NAFCON has long pointed at him for his role in condoning and perpetuating corruption and political suppression, including his role in numerous scandals such as “Pork Barrel”, “Hacienda Luisita”, and Mamasapano, as well as his failure to adequately support Typhoon Haiyan victims.

Currently, NAFCON is engaged in the “Adopt A Community” program, which aims to support communities suffering from the effects of climate change, like the victims of the Kidapawan massacre. In addition to helping build sustainable water systems in Mindanao, the Adopt a Community program supports the international “Stop Lumad Killings” campaign to hold the Philippine government accountable for numerous killings of Lumad (indigenous) community leaders under the government’s suppression efforts. Many victims of the Kidapawan Massacre are also Lumad. We encourage everyone to learn more about the program and consider donating.

NAFCON is an alliance of more than 23 organizations throughout the United States. If anyone would like to join NAFCON’s efforts to support building a better Philippines or if you would like more information you can go to www.nafconusa.org or contact us at info@nafconusa.org or call 415.333.6267.

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