North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza denied reports she will block donations of rice for the protesting farmers of North Cotabato.
“That is not true. I cannot do that,” she said in an interview.
In fact, she said, the rice donated by actor Robin Padilla has already been delivered to the farmers who are currently housed at the compound of the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan City.
“The bags of rice are already there. So, how can I block?” she said.
However, she earlier expressed her concern that these rice donations will be used for politics.
In an interview with the media, Mendoza questioned politicians who promised to give rice to the farmers.
“Bigla lang kayo mag-dating at mag-bigay ng bigas? Nanginginsulto ba kayo? O namumulitika kayo? O gusto nyo talagang tumulong? Sa lahat ng kandidato , sino man ang magpunta ditto, wag ninyo gawing staging ground ang North Cotabato para sa propaganda para makahingi kayo ng tulong sa international community at magkapera kayo,” she said.
In Davao City, supporters of presidential candidate and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte pooled their resources to help drought-stricken farmers.
Supporters have responded after volunteer members of the Duterte Media Group started a donation drive for the farmers who are suffering from the effects of El Niño.
“They need our help now that the government is not responding and even playing deaf and blind to their sorry situation after shooting at them,” said Peter Laviña, the head of the Duterte Media Group.
Calm and sobriety
Meanwhile, Duterte has called for calm and sobriety in the midst of still growing tension between hungry farmers and police in Kidapawan City.
Duterte said the situation, which resulted in the death of at least three persons and the wounding of many others, is a humanitarian problem that can be resolved through dialogue.
“It’s very sad,” he said Friday night as he announced that the city government of Davao will give food assistance to the farmers.
He said it is the only thing that he can do for now as a local chief executive.
“I don’t want to tinker with the ongoing dispute there. I am only the mayor of Davao City,” he said. “I will not go there to ask for anything because that is not my territory.”
As a lawyer, Duterte knows that he does not have the authority to intervene in the affairs of another local government unit.
He also pointed out that helping the farmers requires the passage of a City Council resolution allowing the office of the city mayor to give food assistance to an area affected by calamity.
Davao did this before when it extended assistance to areas affected by typhoon Yolanda and other calamities.
“We will assist them just to help them tide over the crisis,” Duterte said.
In Bukidnon, Duterte pointed out that helping the hungry farmers “is part of the city government of Davao’s social commitment.”
“I was willing to go there, not for anything else, but to ask if I can help on the humanitarian side of the problem — that is to give the farmers food assistance,” he said.
The presidential candidate from Mindanao also urged the leaders of the farmers and North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza to dialogue, saying it is the best way to solve the problem.
“I am calling for sobriety. We need to keep calm,” he said. “The leaders of the farmers and Governor Mendoza should talk about this.”
On Friday, violence erupted when police used force to break the barricade set up by around 5,000 farmers along the highway in Kidapawan City.
The farmers, reeling from the severe impact of the long drought that has hit the province, demanded the release of 15,000 sacks of rice and other forms of aid.
Leoncio Evasco, Duterte’s national campaign manager, blamed the Aquino administration for the carnage.
“All these barbaric attacks and needless sacrifices would not have happened if the government and the people running it had responded to the clamor for change when 30 years ago the Filipino people put an end to a dictatorship,” he said.
President Benigno Aquino III, Evasco pointed out, cannot escape blame and responsibility for the bloody assault against the hungry farmers who were demanding food after a prolonged dry spell.
“A hungry people demanding food do not deserve to be shot,” he said. “An unarmed, defenseless throng of people asking for food poses no danger. In fact they are in danger. Why, oh why should government resort to this state violence?” he said.