By Gigi Babon, Billy Javier Reyes and Bb. Joyce Cabral
Manila, Philippines- The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) asked farming families in Pangasinan province affected by “tidal wave like” releasing of excess waters by San Roque dam to file class suit and other appropriate criminal and civil charges against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, against managers of the multipurpose dam and officials of the state-run National Power Corporation (Napocor).
In a press statement, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said President Arroyo under the principle of command responsibility is grossly liable for the scores of death and destruction in Pangasinan, and it is only legal and moral to have her lead the stellar cast of criminals behind the across-the-province massacre of peasant homes and rural economic and cultural life.
“We don’t care if she still has this presidential immunity excuse. That will not stop farmers from charging her before the country’s appropriate court. The proposal to deluge her with criminal charges along with top officials of San Roque Multipurpose Dam and Napocor is both legal and collective political exercise of people’s search for truth, justice and accountability,” the KMP leader said.
Ramos made the appeal to Pangasinan farmers to sue President Arroyo, a day after the Senate Committee on Climate Change headed by Sen. Loren Legarda agreed to help craft a protocol in releasing excess waters from dams following the incessant rain and devastating flooding that last week submerged 38 towns and cities in the province.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. This tragedy is intentional and can be rooted out to the eternal thirst for super profits of San Roque and Napocor, which has the seal of approval of the Office of the President. Now, President Arroyo wants to call her own version of investigation. What for? She should be at the center of the gathering political storm against San Roque dam and Napocor,” the KMP official said.
Sen. Legarda said her committee will summon all dam operators to another hearing on tomorrow to write the procedures prompted by back-to-back storms that hit Luzon over the past three weeks, triggered massive flooding and claimed 712 lives.
“We need to have a system or what we call a protocol in releasing water from the dams. We can’t rely on (dam officials’) ingenuity but on a clear scientific way,” said Legarda following a three-hour hearing last Wednesday.
Legarda said the mechanism was needed to prevent a repeat of the destruction and deaths caused by the sudden rise of floodwaters at the height of the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma) just a week after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (Ketsana) mauled Metro Manila.
But KMP said Sen. Legarda should now extend the invitation to legitimate stakeholders groups that include farmer organizations in Pangasinan, Tarlac, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, including peasant groups in other flooded provinces of Central Luzon namely Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan.
The peasant group said aside from peasant organizations, the chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change should also invite experts and advocacy groups to shed light on San Roque Dam that includes cause-oriented organizations that opposed the construction of the dam in 1998.
“Senator Legarda is well informed that San Roque Dam and Napocor officials who attended the hearing two days ago are President Arroyo’s alter egos, and like Mrs. Arroyo, these officials have no conscience and therefore their stories are tall tales, certified incorrect and grandiose lies. We appeal to the good senator to have the farmers speak for themselves and present their alternative and politically correct views based on their rich grassroots experience and knowledge,” the KMP added. #