JUST BECAUSE IT IS Â Election Season does not mean Â that Â we forget that farmers are human beings who need to eat everyday or Â they will die.
The “Kidapawan Â Massacre” – Â 3 deaths and 200 wounded- could actually been averted . If only Â the under-performing Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala and his ilk acted with dispatch. After all , the weather bureau had already Â warned all of us about “El Nino” – as early as two years ago in 2014.
How come 6,000 farmers blocked the Cotabato-Davao Highway beginning March 30 Â –asking the government for rice supply and seeds for planting? Rice, not bullets, they later pleaded. They asked for one sack of rice each and were promised three kilos, our Good Lord.
It is good that the SP (province) has declared “Bohol under a state of calamity”. Â That being so, government can now access the P75-M ( of the P1.6-Billion provincial budget) or 5 %% of the budget in order to give Â help to farmers in whatever form of assistance to stave ill effects of “El Nino”.Â Â
Government should ignore Â its fear that helping the farmers Â coming from the P75_M funds can be called electioneering. Â But not doing so would run the risk of having a Kidapawan situation here. Already, 27 Bohol towns have reported the state of disaster in their locale due to the hot weather.
Compassion for farmers must overcome paralyzing Â fear.Â Â
Even beyond that- our government has Â actually money in the billions to help farmers cope with “El Nino”- via the Â National Disaster Risk and Rehabilitation Management Funds, Â the Quick Response Fund and Â the People’s Survival Fund. This was confirmed by senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the senate committee on Finance and Climate Change.
Since there is no rice shortage and NGA warehouses are filled with rice- some subsidy should be effected for grain, seeds and fertilizer in this state of emergency. Â Legarda even suggested a few novel ways to help cushion the loss of income of farmers Â from the crop failure due to heat.
Rural folks can be hired for desilting of rivers, building of barangay nurseries, building of water catchment facilities, waste segregation work Â and training for climate change response in the rural communities.
Just how big are these nationally-budgeted funding facilities? In the billions.
The Department of Agriculture has P11-M in Quick Response Response Fund (2015) Â and P497-M (2016),. DSWD Â has P 704-M (2015) and P 1.6-B (2016). Â NDRRM has P 5-B (2015) and a whooping P 43-B (2016).Â
And “El Nino” is definitely a disaster that is already happening. Cotabato has lost P1-B in crop losses. Â What are these billions Â of Â funds parked in the banks for? And shooting protesting farmers Â who are only Â asking for their proper release?
This is a sad commentary of the lack of sharp priority focus of Â government. To justify the carnage, the military has said that paraffin tests on one of the deceased farmers yielded gunpowder
burns and one gun was allegedly Â found beside the prostrated body of another protestor. Really?
Scores have been detained -and accordingly , including – senior citizens and pregnant women. This is cruelty. Without a warrant of arrest, a person cannot be detained for more than 36 hours or a day and a half.
In the first place, why were the police armed with high powered ammunition just to disperse an Â angry crowd armed with sticks and stones?
Former senator and governor Homobono Adaza wrote in the Manila Times that during the Marcos era- there was the same phenomenon in the same area. Although the oppositionist Daza was given a hard time in the debate for aid, eventually all the farmers were reportedly given one sack of rice each through former Agriculture secretary “Bong ” Tanco. Not necessarily that Ferdinand Marcos was a good president.
The Â present police used the bogey that there were leftists among the protesters- are leftists now- no longer Â considered as human beings, too, who hunger and thirst during drought?
Chito Gascon, a forthright chief of the Commission on Human Rights must act quickly and Â can the Â policemen who violated maximum tolerance over people who were exercising their rights to assemble and to seek redress of grievances.
The “Kidapawan” incident could be a microcosm of similar things happening in many parts of the country.
Instead of this unspeakable cruelty to the poor and powerless farmers, Government should Â the utilize the billions in funds above and mitigate the hunger of millions of people suffering under the tyranny of “El Nino”. That’s common sense not practiced, we tell you true.
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