LAWMAKERS condemned Saturday the violent dispersal of a group of farmers holding a picket line along a national highway in Kidapawan City on Friday that resulted in the death of at least three people.

Valenzuela City Representative Sherwin Gatchalian is urging the leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to expedite the investigation of its members involved in the violent dispersal of farmers, who were asking for government’s help amid the drought being experienced in Mindanao.

“The PNP leadership should expedite the probe… (and) immediately relieved the officers and personnel directly involved in the killing of three farmers,” said Gatchalian.

At least three people were killed while 116 were reported injured after police authorities allegedly opened fire on protesters who were asking for government relief as their farms were affected by drought due to El Nino.

“We vehemently condemn the violent dispersal instigated by our very own government. The farmers have only one simple demand – rice for their families. This is more than a valid request from our government. This is a humanitarian plea from our own people,” said Gatchalian.

The drought has already affected some 237,000 hectares of agriculture areas in Mindanao with an estimated production loss of 358,800 metric tons of rice, corn, high value crops, and livestock as of last month based on the assessment by the Department of Agriculture.

Gatchalian blasted President Benigno Aquino III for making himself busy with the campaigning for Liberal Party candidates instead of attending to the problem of affected farmers in Mindanao.

Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said the arrested farmers should immediately be freed and their demand for food given now.

Colmenares also scored the PNP for the alleged harassment that it is doing against the United Methodist Church-Kidapawan were most of the injured farmers are currently taking refuge.

“Sasabihin nila they are pro-farmers at tutulungan nila ang mga magsasaka pero sa halip na bigyan ng bigas at pagkain at pinagbabaril. Anong klaseng gobyerno ito? Sinasagot ang kalamidad ng mas madugong kalamidad,” said Colmenares.

Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon said the violent incident in Kidapawan City is only a “testament the disdainful height of impunity, insensitivity, and callousness of the Aquino administration.”

“Where else could one find a government that offers bullets to citizens who ask for food and immediate relief?” We cannot emphasize enough how brazen and outrageous it is for law enforcers to take lives when all the people ask for is immediate relief amid the drought,” Ridon said.