By Chito Chavez
The militant group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) yesterday slammed the military and police for barring 300 farmers from staging a “Calvary of the Poor’’ protest action against Martial Law in Mindanao in Cagayan de Oro last Friday.
In a statement, UMA said “in essence, despite the police’ pronouncement that it respects the right of every person to travel, to peaceful assembly and petition the government for a redress of grievances, it had no intention whatsoever to respect these rights from the beginning’’.
Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores chairperson of UMA said as early as April 11, the military’s 403rd Brigade distributed leaflets red-tagging the Calvary of the Poor.
Among the organizations, it red-tagged in its leaflet behind the Calvary of the Poor was UMA and its local organization OGYON (Onyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa or United Small Farmworkers Union).
The group noted that on April 18, the sakbayan of 14 vehicles were held in Dalwangan and Sumilao by the 88th IB and SAF.
In both places, the pictures of all the participants were taken and the names of their leaders were listed down.
They were told by the military that they were sent by the NPA to make trouble in Cagayan de Oro.
In Sumilao, UMA said the police also threw spikes into the ground that resulted in deflating the tire of the lead vehicle of the sakbayan.
On April 19, they were again held by the police and military in Manolo Fortich from 11 am – 4 pm.
The group noted they were told that they were looking for an NPA leader among their ranks and wanted to arrest Datu Walter España.
Datu is the spokesperson of Hustisya. He was almost extra judicially killed on Nov. 23, 2018.
DSWD personnel who did not want to identify themselves also wanted to take into custody 15 children who were brought along by their parents because no one would take care of them back home.
The police had accused the protesters of human trafficking which is an offense commonly charged against human rights defenders in Mindanao.
“All these attempts by the police failed because of the militant assertion of their rights by the protesters. They also chided the DSWD that if they are really concerned with the situation of the people then why have they never assisted the 100+ Lumad evacuees in the compound of the Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Malaybalay where they have been staying for 3 months already,’’ UMA said in a statement.
Flores said the protesters then decided not to proceed to Cagayan de Oro but go to the Lumad evacuees where they have been followed by the police and are waiting for reinforcements up to yesterday (April 20).
“They were protesting to put an end to Martial Law in Mindanao. We will hold the state security forces accountable if there would be any arrests on the 300 protesters,’’ UMA concluded.