Militants beat up police, storm gov't office
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Militants on Thursday morning, January 31, stormed a government office, defaced it, and beat up a Quezon City police commander to protest the distribution of the controversial coco levy funds.
National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) head Joel Rocamora confirmed this in a phone interview with Rappler, noting that Quezon City police chief Senior Supt Richard Albano moved to secure the area.
In another interview with Rappler, however, Anakpawis secretary-general Jun Luna said it was the police that provoked violence. Luna, who joined the protest, also belied the claim that part of the NAPC office was damaged.
Rocamora, who was at home when the incident happened, said the protestors jumped over NAPC's gate and forcibly entered the office compound. He said the glass door of the main building was damaged, but he was still verifying if it was the door itself or only the handle.
He said the militants also beat up a police commander. In a tweeted photo, dzMM reporter Johnson Manabat identified the commander as Quezon City Station 2 commander Supt Pedro Sanchez. The photo shows Sanchez bruised on his cheek.
A photographer in the area said activists hurt at least 3 policemen.
Like Anakpawis, activist groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Claim staged the protest on Friday.
Rocamora said the activists want the government to distribute the coco levy funds directly to farmers.
In a landmark decision in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the state owns the multibillion-peso coco levy funds invested in diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. The government-owned Coconut Industry Investment Fund said the funds will go to livelihood programs, and research and development for coconut farmers. (See Rappler's timeline: The San Miguel-coco levy saga.)
Based on this decision, Rocamora said the government cannot simply heed the activists.
“Hindi ganoon ang policy ng gobyerno. Violation din 'yan ng desisyon ng Korte Suprema na ang coco levy, hindi puwedeng ipamigay sa private individuals and other private entities,” said Rocamora. (That is not the policy of the government. That is also a violation of the Supreme Court decision that coco levy may not be distributed to private individuals and other private entities.)
He explained the government will follow an anti-poverty program for farmers and workers, as well as a plan for the coconut industry.
Luna, for his part, blamed the police for the violence.
He said the police, led by Sanchez, attempted to enter the NAPC compound aboard a 6x6 truck. The activist leader also said a policeman took out an M16 rifle, which he promptly turned over to Sanchez after the gun attracted media attention.
Asked about Sanchez's injury, Luna replied: “Walang pambubugbog.” (There was no such attack.)
He said Sanchez was injured when protestors tried to get hold of his M-16. “Nasalya siya, dahil nga sa agawan sa M-16... Hindi po namin masasabing nanakit 'yon pero 'yon ay depensa ng mga tinutukan niya ng M-16. (He was injured because of the brawl over the M-16... We cannot say we hurt him because that was the defense of those to whom he pointed his gun.)
What about the policeman's bruise? “Kitang kita na hindi niya pinupunasan,” Luna said. (It's obvious he didn't want to conceal it.)
He also denied accusations of breaching security in the NAPC office. “Public building po 'yan. Karapatan po namin 'yan.” (That's a public building. That's our right.)
Luna said the root of the issue is the coco levy funds.
“Bakit hindi ibabalik sa magsasaka eh public fund 'yan? Pondo 'yan ng magsasaka... Hindi na ho namin bibihin ang sinasabi nila na gagamitin sa livelihood,” he said, noting that has been the government's line since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
(Why wouldn't they give these back to farmers when these are public funds? Those are farmers' funds... We would no longer buy the claim that they would use it for livelihood.)
“Ang problema kay Joel Rocamora, hindi siya humaharap... Pulis din ang inuutusan niya. Hindi naman puwedeng pulis ang haharap sa magsasaka. Ano ang alam ng pulis sa isyu ng coco levy?” he added. (The problem with Joel Rocamora is, he doesn't face us... He just orders the police. It can't be that the police would face the farmers. What do farmers know about the issue of coco levy?)
'Ready to evacuate'
In fear due to the rally, NAPC employees holed up in their office. Introducing herself on Twitter as a NAPC employee, Andee de Jesus said they "are ready to evacuate." (See more of her tweets below.)
1/31/13 :( Rallyist invade our beloved ATI-NAPC. You are frightening the@ National Anti-Poverty Commission instagr.am/p/VIeCROO7Ez/— andeedejesus (@iamyourrealm) January 31, 2013
Complaining that "hooligans" have disrupted their work, Aliza Belarmino tweeted another photo of what she called a security breach.