Monday, July 05, 2010

Farmers' group condemns violent dispersal of protesters in Manila

MANILA, Philippines - The series of violent dispersal and the killing of a political activist all on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s first week in office put his promise to uphold democracy and peace in serious question, Kilusang Mayo Uno said on Monday.

Farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, including those from the Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita who demanding the new administration to implement genuine agrarian reform were violently dispersed on Saturday in Manila. At least 40 farmers and militants were arrested while dozens more hurt.

Following the arrest of farmers, about 30 students who staged an indignation rally at the police headquarters in Manila were also violently dispersed.

On Monday, Bayan Muna party-list coordinator Fernando Baldomero was shot dead in front of his house, marking the first extra-judicial killing under the Aquino administration.

“These series of violent dispersal and the killing of our fellow activist portend a repressive climate for militants and ordinary people under the new administration. It is an unwelcome sign from a new government which promises respect for democracy and peace,” KMU vice-chairman Joselito Ustarez said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Condemn the dispersal

“What happened in Mendiola (bridge near the Presidential Palace in Manila) last Saturday was a violent repression of democratic calls for genuine land reform right in front of the President’ seat of power,” Ustarez said, adding, that Aquino should condemn the incident rather than defend his family’s interests in Hacienda Luisita.

Over the weekend, Aquino merely said that dispersed Luisita farmers should give him time to distribute the sugar estate in Tarlac town.

“Is that what this shows? That when the new president feels pressure from below, he agrees to use pressure against demonstrators? He asks for much time for him to implement reforms while he does not waste time in using force against dissenters. Not a good sign,” Ustarez said.

It’s the least which the people expect from Aquino, who promised in his inaugural address that farmers will finally be cared of under his administration,” he added.

Probe the killing

KMU also urged Aquino to order a swift investigation into the first case of extra-judicial killing under his watch.

“How Aquino will handle the case of Baldomero will be a measure of his administration’s sincerity to seek justice for all victims of human rights violations,” Ustarez said.

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