The Philippines is in the middle of a propaganda war. The upcoming election seems to have emboldened some to use propaganda machines designed to effect maximum damage on their enemies. The problem is, it’s not just the reputation of the people who are at war that is at stake; innocent people’s lives are also at stake. The violent dispersal of protesters at Kidapawan City, North Cotabato is a case in point.
When news first broke out that there were protesters who died and that scores were injured during the dispersal, a lot of people assumed that it was the result of the actions of over-zealous members of the police force. A lot of us were quick to condemn the police for not exercising maximum tolerance against protesting farmers. It wasn’t too hard to side with the protesters at first, particularly when the media portrayed them as poor starving farmers who had lost their livelihood due to the drought or the effects of El Nino. In fact, we should still give them our sympathy. The local government did not do enough to help them and nip the problem in the bud.
In a propaganda war, public sympathy will always lie with the dead. Since there were protesters who died, the public naturally felt sorry for them. But we should spare a thought for the members of the police force who were simply doing their jobs. They were sent to Ground Zero to deal with the protesters. None of them died but two of them are now in a coma, still in a critical condition after they were beaten to a pulp by protesters. A video of the tragic event shows quite a number of protesters beating the cops even when they were already down on the ground.
Some of us failed to realize that there were more cops than protesters who sustained injuries from the rocks thrown at them and sticks used to bludgeon them. The protesters were supposed to be “starving”, see. Needless to say, their action is not something that I would condone. The protesters in that instance acted like mad dogs who were mauling their victims.
I personally do not want to be used as a tool for spreading false information in this propaganda war. It seems there are extremists – enemies of the state – who have taken advantage of the situation and are using the farmers to advance their own agenda. Yes, the farmers have genuine grievances but violence against members of the police or those who were trying to put order back into the situation should not be part of their agenda. The worst part is, only the cops are taking flak for the tragedy because they were seen carrying and using their firearms. Never mind that the police came into this situation when it was already at the boiling point. They didn’t create the problem. There are even reports that one of the protesters who died tested positive for gunpowder residue on his hands.
It can be difficult to discern who is telling the truth when there is too much noise coming from all sides, which is why people need to stick to the facts. The fact is, the government failed to reach out to the people sooner. Kidapawan was already included in the list of areas under a state of calamity as early as January 2016 but the assistance to the people affected was moving at glacial speed. The farmers’ situation became so dire that it’s not hard to imagine why they latched on to groups of people – allegedly communists groups – who most likely promised to help them negotiate with the government. This is evident in statements from some farmers who said that they were lured into joining the rally in exchange for rice.
It doesn’t help that North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza cannot set aside politics in times of crisis. She had the nerve to say she was insulted when donations from other politicians started pouring in. The government’s lack of action coupled with their arrogance is not helping their cause. They will not gain sympathy from the public. It is also worth noting that President Benigno Simeon Aquino has not said anything about tragedy. His handlers probably thought it would be best for the President not to speak about important issues like this in public to avoid committing more faux pas.
What BS Aquino’s supporters are doing is accusing Presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of asking his so-called friends from the left to organise the protest and instigate the violence. They said that his donations of rice to the farmers was a calculated move to make him look good to the voters. They say this like they have proof. They are very good at coming up with conspiracy theorists and even tell it to the media like it is the truth. Whether or not their theory is true is beside the point. The government still looks bad for neglecting the farmers. It should have not reached a desperate point.
The sad thing here is, while the government appears callous to those who are suffering, the members of the police force have become pawns of this game and have fallen victim to this propaganda war. It’s no surprise that some of them have low morale and eventually lose their patriotism for their country.