The violent police dispersal of the rallyists from the indigenous and Moro people in front of the US Embassy last Oct 21 was caught on film, has gone viral and has angered a lot of overseas Filipinos and international friends. This followed an earlier violent dispersal on Oct 18 of indigenous people and their advocates in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the main army camp of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The Director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCPRO) ordered the immediate “relief” of the Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo and eight others, including PO3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police van involved in running over the rallyists. This included 40 more Manila Police Department personnel relieved of their duties and placed under restrictive custody. An investigation is said to be underway.
There is nothing that would justify the ramming of a police vehicle against the rallyists, dragging and crushing them underneath the police van. There is nothing that would justify the sadistic pummeling of rallyists by truncheon-wielding police as the rallyists are pulled out of jeepneys or of PO3 Kho grabbing a Lumad woman inside a jeepney by the hair and punching a local videographer when he realized his brutality was being recorded. Police men and women are trained to use maximum tolerance , that is their job. The protesters were armed with banners and signs and with words – and these scared the police commanders out of their wits.
The rally program was down to its last speaker and everything was peaceful until Superintendent Pedrozo came to the scene and ordered the police “to fight back” and arrest the protesters; the police had lost face with the US embassy, and his rants were captured by the GMA7 video. Well, the police did just what their boss ordered – they beat the rallyists with their truncheons, handcuffed them, they even arrested those who were injured and hurt. They arrested 42 people, the entire medical team including a doctor, nurse and health volunteers and even a media person.
In this age of technology, the police brutality captured on phones and cameras told a completely different story than what the police were saying.
The indigenous people and the Moro have seen militarization in their communities and they were not spared this military violence in the city. They had travelled thousands of miles from the northern and southern places of the country to protest the militarization of their villages and show support for Duterte’s independent foreign policy, distancing itself from the United States. They also called for the pull-out of US troops and abrogation of unequal defense treaties and an end to foreign, particularly US domination.
One would think that with President Duterte’s strong and public assertions of an independent foreign policy, especially from the United States, the police and the military would have acted accordingly, i.e. with maximum tolerance and respect for the people’s democratic rights to speech and assembly.
But that was too much to ask. Or think. Bottom line, what happened at the US Embassy showed whose interests the police and the military are trained to protect.
We should be worried. And angry.