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The police are human beings, too

  • Written by Itchie Cabayan
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 257

THE melee that took place between demonstrators and members of the Manila Police District (MPD) in front of the US Embassy in Ermita, Manila, came as a shock to many, almost eclipsing news related to Super Typhoon Lawin and President Duterte’s visit to China. 

The physical, violent confrontation also went viral with many netizens quick to exclaim ‘police brutality’. While I initially felt the urge to join the bashing since Col. Marcelino Pedrozo, who was on top of the said event, once threatened to sue me for writing something adverse to his interest, I’d rather be fair.            
   
I know I will rake in some disagreeing reactions but sadly again, the faults of the protesters are being downplayed and drowned, simply because the police are outnumbered by civilians. In the said incident alone, the police were clearly outmanned and outpowered.                                                                                 
   
The sight of a police van going back and forth, in the process hitting rallyists, was a shocking sight, no doubt. But did the critics bother to look deeper into the issue? What prompted such happening?                                                             
   
Before that, there was already a lot of pushing and shoving. Bottles and rocks already rained on the police, some of whom were already harmed and their uniforms splattered with red paint.                                                                    
   
Regarding the van incident, it was clear that the window on the driver’s side also had red paint splattered all over it. The front windshield was also vandalized. Men were seen violently and continuously hitting with solid truncheons the said window and also the glass window directly behind the driver, since it was an open van. What was the driver supposed to do?    
   
The one seated at the driver’s side was a police officer in full uniform. The vehicle he was in was a police van, complete with markings. And yet, the protesters attacked the van and the driver without any regard for the authority that the van and the one manning it represent.   
   
Setting authority aside, let us not take away the fact that the driver is also but a human being. Anyone whose life is threatened by violent individuals who show utter disregard and disrespect even for authorities will do anything possible for the sake of self-preservation. It’s basic instinct, even for animals of lower kind.                    
   
During post-rally interviews, a lady student admitted they did not have the permit to rally and that they don’t need it since the US Embassy is a foreign entity. What??? This kind of pronouncement makes me wonder if this young girl even has a full grasp of what she was doing there.  
   
When I was a student at the University of Santo Tomas, I and my friends also joined certain protest actions, mostly at the historic Mendiola area. I still remember clearly how our organizers would repeatedly advise us to leave the ranks once there are infiltrations, since the infiltrators will certainly be out only to provoke violence. The signs: men in fighting stance chanting different, ‘communist-style’ slogans and unfurling red banners. 
   
Once, I and a couple of girl friends chose not to heed the advice. We ended up being caught in the middle of the chaos, wet from water canons and red-faced because of the teargas, until kind-hearted media members plucked us out and brought us to safer grounds. From then on, we still joined demonstrations but exited upon seeing signs of infiltration.                                                          
   
Rallyists who join such actions know what they are getting into and must be ready to face the consequences of their actions. Holding a rally without a permit is prohibited by law.    
   
There are areas designated for the purpose. In Manila, for instance, there are parks and plazas such as the Liwasang Bonifacio where their sentiments may be aired unhampered, so why insist on doing so right at the doorstep of the US Embassy?                                                                                                
   
And if they cannot afford the police the respect they duly deserve as the ones upholding the laws of the land, at least respect the uniform and what it stands for, because, basing on the said girl’s statements, it would seem that these rallyists think that they are above the law or that they are the law.                                                                                                       
           
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