Press Release
April 1, 2016


Presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago called inhuman the deadly dispersal of farmers and indigenous peoples who barricaded a Kidapawan City highway on Friday in protest of insufficient food supply in their areas.

Santiago, a constitutional expert, said the government should be held accountable for the violence that killed one person and wounded some 30 others, adding that the act violated the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

She was referring to the Constitution, Article 3, Section 4, which guarantees, along with the freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."

"It is vile enough that this administration has failed to support the farmers and lumads of Kidapawan during the prolonged drought in Mindanao. But it is downright inhuman for them to shoot at the same people begging for help," the senator said.

Media outfits reported that the violence erupted after police and security personnel attempted to disperse the groups blockading the Cotabato-Davao Highway. When the protesters resisted, the armed personnel allegedly opened fire.

Santiago said the incident should immediately be investigated and those guilty be swiftly brought to justice. She also urged the administration to improve support for the agriculture sector to consistently ensure sufficient food supply.

"In the first place, there would not have been a protest if only these people felt compassion from their leaders. This government cannot claim to be pro-poor when it answers pleas for help with bursts of gunshot," the senator said.

Santiago also lamented the death of her proposed Right to Adequate Food Framework Act (Senate Bill No. 2137), which could have helped put in place mechanisms to ensure food supply despite dry spells and other phenomena.

The bill seeks to establish a Commission on the Right to Adequate Food, which will be tasked, along with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, to manage food supply during emergencies.

It also seeks to impose the penalty of imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years against any public or private person who deliberately starves or denies access to food to any individual or group.

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