As one expects from the Tuwad na Daan program of governance of President Benigno Aquino and his presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has responded to the killing of three farmers and the injury of 100 others in a Kidapawan rally for rice subsidy with a dismissal: “Hindi po grabe ang hirap doon sa kanila.” Alcala said that in fact, there is sufficient food supply in the province.
And yet if you look at even government’s official statistics, half of Kidapawan is in fact impoverished. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the province registered a 48.9% poverty incidence rate in the first semester of 2015.
With regards food supply, it seems important to ask: how will farmers buy food if they have no money, and are in fact, poor?
Even the specific towns of the farmers register high poverty numbers. News reports have mentioned that the farmers had come from the towns of Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas, Magpet and Kidapawan, all of which were affected by drought. In 2012, Arakan registered a 53.9% poverty rate, Antipas 41.1%, President Roxas 47.6%, Magpet 48.9% and Kidapawan 27.7%. North Cotabato itself registered a 52.4% poverty rate in 2012.
This poverty, while denied by matuwid-na-daan, continues to the present. This, in the end, is what the Kidapawan rally proved: there is hunger and there is poverty, no matter how matuwid-na-daan spins it.
What is enraging is not just this poverty and hunger though. What is reason for anger is the fact that in the case of the Kidapawan farmers, it meant a violent dispersal, with at least a hundred injured, and three dead.