Government neglect caused Kidapawan bloodshed - NFA employees

Officials of the government workers' union COURAGE with Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate in Baguio City denouncing the violent dispersal of farmers and lumad in Kidapawan City. (photo by Aldwin Quitasol,
The online news portal of TV5

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- Employees of the National Food Authority said their agency would have had enough rice to address the demands of protesting farmers and lumad in Kidapawan City had the Cotabato provincial government given the word to release the stocks, thus preventing Friday’s violent dispersal.

Noting that the El Nino and the resulting drought that has gripped many parts of the country since late last year had long been expected, NFA Employees Association president Roman Sanchez said there should be an existing memorandum of agreement between their agency and the national or local government units on how to respond to the calamity.

"In the case of North Cotabato, dapat may naka-set-up na na sistema ng pag-ayuda sa mga magsasakang apektado ng tagtuyot (there should have been a system already in place to assist the farmers affected by the drought)," said Sanchez, who is in Baguio for the national congress of the Confederation of Unity for the Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or COURAGE.

He said he is certain the NFA in Kidapawan could have addressed the farmers’ immediate demand for 15,000 sacks of rice to help them stave off the hunger they said had descended on their communities after the long dry spell ruined their crops.

Either the national or provincial government could then pay for the stocks.

"For 43 years already, ginagawa ‘yan ng NFA (The NFA has been doing that for 43 years now),” he said, blaming government neglect for the mayhem that broke out when police, including a battle-ready unit armed with assault rifles, dispersed the thousands of protesters who had formed a human barricade across the Cotabato-Davao highway.