Press Release
April 7, 2016

Cayetano on Kidapawan: Where is the gov't when farmers need them the most?

Vice presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano today said if the national government had addressed the public's concern about the ill effects of the El Niño phenomenon early on, the shooting and violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City would have been averted.

In a statement released during a Senate hearing on the incident on Thursday, Cayetano said that by failing to take immediate action to curb the effects of the dry spell, the national government has aggravated the situation of poor Filipino farmers. "Matagal nang nararanasan ng mga magsasaka ang hirap, pero hanggang ngayon, marami pa rin ang patuloy na naghihirap at 'di naaabutan ng ayuda. Nasaan ang national government? This is criminal neglect, the government has failed the farmers," he stressed.

During the hearing, Cayetano questioned the absence of concerned national officials.

"Where are the national leaders?"

"Most of my questions are for the secretaries. Ang problema, I only see one undersecretary here. Kahit isa sa mga secretary ay wala dito. This is a national issue and they are not here? I hope we don't have to issue subpoenas to these secretaries if we aren't satisfied with the findings today," Cayetano said.

While directing his questions to PNP officials, Cayetano also stressed that police units assigned in Kidapawan did not seem to follow proper regulations in enforcing the dispersal. "Why did the police have long firearms and live ammunition? It is clear in the law the enforcers should not carry firearms. Noong panahon ng Martial Law, normal siguro 'yan. But we're under a different Constitution now," he stressed.

The senator, meanwhile, said the tragedy in Kidapawan should serve as a reminder that government inaction leads to hunger and even violence. "We do not want this incident to happen again. Hindi naman natin kasalanan ang El Niño, pero ang gobyerno ang inaasahan ng mga tao," he stressed.

State of calamity

To address the problem, Cayetano urged the national government to declare all El Niño-hit areas under a state of calamity. He said doing so will allow local government units (LGUs) access to calamity funds sourced from higher offices, and impose a price freeze and price ceiling on basic necessities in affected areas.

He cited areas that declared a state of calamity in view of the damages brought by the drought - Zamboanga City, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Guimaras, Maguindanao, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Sarangani, Iloilo, and Basilan. "LGUs already acknowledged the severity of the situation. But where is the national government in all of this? Where is the national response to this crisis and the counterpart funds? They are missing in action while the oppressive drought ravages the countryside," Cayetano said.

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