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MANILA, Philippines – The chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday, October 20, reminded the 160,000-strong police force of his “strict instructions…to exercise maximum tolerance in such public assemblies” while insisting that “we cannot point fingers right away without clear investigation” in the aftermath of a violent clash between Manila police and protesters.
“Napanood ko ang video at nakakalungkot at nakakagalit (I saw the video and I am both saddened and angered). I saw people got hurt. Ayaw na ayaw ko na may nasasaktan na Pilipino (I do not want Filipinos getting hurt). But I cannot let emotions get the best of me. As Chief of the PNP, I have a duty and moral obligation to look into this squarely, and deal with it swiftly and decisively,” Dela Rosa said in a statement issued on Thursday, a day after personnel from the Manila Police District (MPD) clashed with protesters in front of the United States embassy on Wednesday, October 19.
Protesters, mostly indigenous people opposing alleged military and US presence in their ancestral lands, were supposedly about to end their program when police commanders ordered the dispersal of the crowd.
The situation soon turned violent.
Protesters started hurling bottles, paint bombs, and rocks at the police. Cops fired tear gas and later drove a police patrol vehicle back and forth along protesters’ ranks. Videos of the police vehicle ramming through a crowd of protesters soon became viral online.
Eight commissioned officers – ground commanders during the clash – have since been administratively relieved by National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde. Also relieved was Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the policeman who drove the vehicle through the crowd.
“The PNP 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,” added Dela Rosa.
The country’s top cop added: “With what transpired at Roxas Boulevard in Ermita, Manila yesterday, an investigation and full review is underway and necessary sanctions will be levied on any personnel guilty for putting lives at risk.”
The PNP has since launched an investigation, led by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The probe will determine the circumstances surrounding the violent dispersal, as well as possible administrative cases against cops. Possible criminal charges – both against cops and protesters – will also be part of the investigation.
Dela Rosa is currently in China for an official work visit. – Rappler.com