PNP relieves cops in violent dispersal of protesters
MANILA – Philippine police chief Ronald dela Rosa has relieved officers, including a policeman who ploughed a patrol car into a group of mostly indigenous people during a peaceful rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
About 5 dozen protesters were hurt or injured in the violent police crackdown against the marchers who were demanding respect for their basic human rights.
They called for the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to drop trumped-up charges brought by the previous Aquino administration against 200 tribal minority rights advocates and urged that state-security forces stop committing abuses against tribal minorities, particularly on Mindanao, according to the Human Rights Watch.
Dela Rosa said he also ordered an investigation into the incident.
“Napanood ko ang video at nakakalungkot at nakakagalit. I saw people got hurt. Ayaw na ayaw ko na may nasasaktan na Pilipino. But I cannot let emotions get the best of me. As Chief of the Philippine National Police, I have a duty and moral obligation to look into this squarely, and deal with it swiftly and decisively.”
“The Philippine National Police recognizes and upholds the citizens’ right to peaceful assembly. Police forces are under strict instructions as a matter of policy, to exercise maximum tolerance in such public assemblies, with public safety and protection of human life an utmost concern and topmost priority,” he said.
Dela Rosa said an investigation and full review is underway and necessary sanctions will be levied on any personnel guilty for putting lives at risk. “Upon my instructions, (the) regional director of the National Capital Region Police Office, Chief Supt Oscar Albayalde, has placed all officers involved in that particular police operation under administrative relief to ensure utmost impartiality of the investigation,” he said, adding, President Duterte has been briefed about the incident.
He said the President “stressed on the obligations of our police to serve and protect the people. But as he said, we cannot point fingers right away without clear investigation.”
Dela Rosa said: “Our other priority now, is to look into the victims, and check on their recovery and safety after such an unfortunate incident.”
The newly-formed national minority alliance for self-determination or Sandugo and other groups condemned the violent dispersal of protesters led by over 1000 Muslim and other indigenous tribesmen from various parts of the country.
It accused Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedroso, of the Manila Police District, of ordering policemen to violently disperse the protesters. “Immediately, the police released tear gas and rammed their mobile patrol vehicle through the ranks of the protesters. Police armed with truncheons also chased after the protesters,” Sandugo said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
It said among those seriously injured were Sandugo lead convenor Piya Malayao, Quenilyn Gromeo, of Anakbayanpup; and Baling Katubigan, a 61-year old Lumad woman from Mindanao. Some 50 protesters also suffered minor injuries from the scuffle.