ARAKAN, North Cotabato—Mayor Rene Rubino denied reports insinuating the local government has been remiss in its duty to extend rice assistance to farmers severely affected by the long dry spell.
“We have been distributing rice to our farmers, it was not true we failed in helping them,” Rubino told reporters.
Many farmers from Arakan joined the March 31 protests in Kidapawan City that ended up bloody, leaving three persons killed, including one of his constituents.
“We did not abandon them, we have prepared rice assistance for all drought victims, I personally did not know they joined the protest,” Rubino said, adding the local government of Arakan has documents to prove that rice distribution has taken place in Arakan and that all farmers identified by the social welfare office have been given rice since October last year.
The Arakan government has already extended burial assistance in cash and a sack of rice to the family of Darwin Sulang, one of the fatalities in the April 1 bloody dispersal of protesters.
Rubino also appealed to all his constituent farmers to return home and receive the assistance prepared by the local government and to be distributed by the Philippine National Red Cross as provided for by the Omnibus Election Code.
Starting Monday, the North Cotabato provincial government will start distributing rice assistance to farmers in 17 municipalities and Kidapawan City through the PNRC.
About 2,000 farmers, not 6,000 as claimed by organizers, went to Kidapawan City asking for rice and blocked portions of the Cotabato-Davao highway.
Some farmers claimed they were deceived to join the journey to Kidapawan City from the hinterland towns of Arakan, Antipas and Pres. Roxas because the National Food Authority (NPA) will distribute rice to farmers affected by drought.
Another farmer also admitted that communist guerillas agitated them to join the protest. He asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.