Duterte pledges aid for Kidapawan farmers

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(File photo) Critics are blaming the Aquino administration, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the local government of Cotabato for the violent dispersal of protesters that left at least three people dead in Kidapawan City.

Davao City (CNN Philippines) – Presidential candidate Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte said he will send humanitarian aid to thousands of North Cotabato farmers who were violently dispersed in Kidapawan City on Friday (April 1), leaving three people dead and dozens wounded, including police officers.

Duterte said Davao City is willing to send 15,000 sacks of rice which the farmers were earlier demanding from the provincial government, prompting them to block several roads in Cotabato in protest.

Duterte explained that since North Cotabato is beyond his jurisdiction as Davao City mayor and out of deference to the incumbent leaders in the area, all he could do is offer help.

Ayokong mangialam because that is not within my territorial jurisdiction. I’m only mayor of Davao City but I said we can offer humanitarian assistance,” he said.

[Translation: “I do not want to meddle because that is not within my territorial jurisdiction. I’m only mayor of Davao City but I said we can offer humanitarian assistance.”]

He added he will ask the Davao City Council to allow him to use the city’s calamity fund to send food aid to the affected farmers.

Duterte puts the blame on the effects of El Niño which severely affected thousands of farmers not just in Cotabato but in other parts of the country as well.

As to the alleged mishandling of the crisis that resulted to the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers, Duterte refused to make any comment, saying he was not in the area when it happened and was not informed of what really happened before and during the incident.

Related: PH gov’t under fire over violent Kidapawan dispersal

Cotabato Gov: Relief ops ongoing

In a press conference Friday afternoon (April 1), North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said she is taking responsibility for what happened.

She said that the estimated 4,000 farmers who were demanding relief from the government were unaware that the relief operations have already been ongoing in their respective towns.

"Alam ng mga farmers ng probinsiya sa Cotabato na nasa Amas ang kapitolyo sa mga panahon na meron silang gustong pag uusapan. Doon nila ako nakakausap. Suddenly, hindi na nila alam at kailangan nilang mag rally dito sa Poblacion, Kidapawan? Siguro dahil hindi na taga rito sa probinsiya ang iba sa kanila," Taliño-Mendoza said.

[Tranlsation: “Farmers in Cotabato know that the Capitol is in Amas. They can talk to me there. Suddenly, they do not know this and they had to rally in Poblacion, Kidapawan? Maybe because some of them are not from Cotabato.”]

The governor said many of the farmers were duped into joining the rally after being told by the organizers that they will be given food aid if they join the protest.

The farmers were allegedly fired upon by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Related: Santiago, Duterte call Kidapawan violence 'inhuman,' 'barbaric'

PNP maintained its officers were trained to exert maximum tolerance in dealing with protests and assured the public a thorough investigation is ongoing.