Just like Beng, Kidapawan farmers deserve justice – CEGP

Justice BengThe College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) demanded justice for the victims of Kidapawan shooting incident as they commemorate the death of their alumna, Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez, today.

On April 5, 2002, during a fact-finding mission at Arakan Valley in the province of Cotabato, she was slayed along with three Lumads by the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) while preparing lunch. One Lumad survived the attack and served as witness to the case.

“Justice is still a far cry fourteen years since the murder of Beng and her companions. Despite the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Committee to the Philippine government to resolve the case, the Aquino administration never acted and even promoted the M/Sgt. Antonio Torilla of the Philippine Army, the commanding officer of CAFGU responsible for Beng’s death,” said Marc Lino Abila, CEGP National President.

Hernandez or Ate Beng, as Guilders fondly call her, was a former CEGP Vice President for Mindanao and editor of Atenews, the official student publication of Ateneo De Davao University. She was also the Deputy Secretary General of human rights watchdog Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region.

“What happened to Beng is no different from what is happening right now in Kidapawan City. Farmers are struggling to survive and the government violently refuses to take heed of their plight instead of giving what is due to the farmers,” Abila continued.

The drought-hit farmers in Cotabato province demanded the release of calamity funds and food assistance the provincial government promised. After almost three months, the local government hasn’t distributed the promised aid. Violence ensued when police forces dispersed the barricade with gunfire.

According to reports from peasant support groups in Kidapawan City, seven farmers are confirmed dead.

“Even after the death of Hernandez, the human rights violations and state inaction continue to perpetuate the culture of impunity in the Philippines,” Abila added.

Abila said that the Guild will continue to be in solidarity with peasants and other marginalized sectors in their struggle and demand justice for the victims of state violence such as Hernandez, the Lumads and Cotabato farmers.

“By upholding the truth, the eyes of the people will be opened and will join the oppressed in their struggle. The campus press is committed to seek the truth and defend the rights of the common people,” Abila ended.###

strysko@mailxu.com