I AM making this appeal in the wake of pronouncements of leaders of different anti-Marcos groups that they will launch a major protest rally this coming Friday to condemn the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Knowing that the protesters include those who clashed with the police outside the United States Embassy in Manila last October 19, I wish there would be no repeat of the violence that marred the dispersal operation which was beamed worldwide.
This early, police have aired readiness to deal with the planned protest action with both PNP chief, General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa and NCRPO director, Chief Superintendent Oca Albayalde vowing that police will exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with the demonstrators but will see to it that the law will be followed to the hilt.
This I think is exactly the same reason why the PNP and the Armed Forces decided to announce the Marcos burial only two hours before the Air Force helicopter carrying the Marcos remains arrived at the heroes’ cemetery. Officials are obviously avoiding what could be a worst-case scenario if the burial was announced days before: the scenario of thousands of ‘pro and anti-Marcos people’ marching to the streets and taunting each other and eventually engaging in physical confrontation.
Last Monday, Gen. de la Rosa described it as a case of ‘damn if you do, damn if you don’t’ when he defended the NCRPO’s actions during the Marcos burial last Friday. He also called on his men to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with the demonstrators and ‘smile, wave and be happy’ when confronted by angry protesters.
The top cop expressed belief that had the burial was announced days earlier, more anti-Marcos protesters could have swamped the place and have a face-to-face confrontation with Marcos supporters. This is true since some people closely identified with the former Aquino administration are now riding on the high emotions on the interment of Marcos and taking it as an opportunity to hit the present government.
Amid the planned Black Friday protest, Albayalde said their CDM units as always will follow Police Operational Procedures and will not try to break up any street protests as long as they are being done in a peaceful and orderly manner and won’t inconvenience or jeopardize the safety of the general public.
Albayalde also urged leaders of anti-Marcos groups to police their own ranks and get the necessary rally permits from mayors in the metropolis who are required to assign public spaces where people can freely air their grievances as stated under Batasang Pambansa 880. The official said they are also ready to augment Army security at the LNMB to prevent anti-Marcos protesters from making good their promise to desecrate the late strongman’s tomb and even spit on it.
The NCRPO have learned its lessons well as a result of the violent October 19 clashes between Manila Police District CDM units and anti-US activists which led to injuries to dozens of policemen and demonstrators. Investigators have recommended the filing of appropriate charges against at least four MPD personnel and five street activists in connection with the bloody dispersal.
I learned that PNP investigators have recommended the filing of administrative charges against Senior Superintendent Mar Pedroso Jr., the MPD deputy district director for operations who was relieved in the aftermath of the violent confrontation, Supt. Albert Barot, the erstwhile MPD Station 5 commander, Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho and Police Officer 1 Fernando Budong. I pity these cops who found themselves in trouble while merely doing their job.
The PNP investigation team also said that protest leaders Renato Reyes and Nathaniel Santiago of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Roberto de Castro of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Piya Macling Malayao of Sandugo and Jerome Aba of Suara Bangsamoro should also be charged for violation of Batas Pambansa 880 or illegal assembly and violation of Articles 148, 265, 266 and 327 of the Revised Penal Code. The five were found to be present at the site and ‘figured prominently in inducing the demonstrators to commit violent acts against the police.’
The investigation report showed that clearly, the protesters provoked the policemen and even breached the CDM line to trigger the violence. “While the program was about to end, one speaker shouted “Wala munang mambabato, stay put lang. Walang manghahampas muna.’ However, the PNP investigation showed that except for the acts of PO3 Kho and several yet to be identified policemen, “the dispersal of the demonstrators /protesters in front of the U.S. Embassy was generally viewed without the use of excessive force. “ The CDM contingent used shields, batons, truncheons, water cannons and fired tear gas. These civil disturbance management mechanisms adhered to the ‘minimum necessary force’ principle,” it said.
Investigators said that based on video footage and still photographs they acquired, “the CDM contingent only had their shields to protect themselves while dispersing the demonstrators who turned violent while armed with sticks, bottles filled with water, various hard objects and red paint. On the other hand, the police were without the crash helmets, no gas mask and ankle high shoes with shin guards or boots.
At the same time, “the acts of vandalism on the walls of the U.S. Embassy, the violent acts against the CDM contingent, and the deliberate destruction of a police vehicle are not reflective of peaceful assembly and are contrary to law,” it said. The report said that evidence revealed that the protesters started the violence a’ prompting the police to react, the measure of which went beyond control. This should not happen again on Friday and the coming days.