PNP: No reason for Manila police to ram through protesters

Bea Cupin
PNP: No reason for Manila police to ram through protesters
But Metro Manila’s top cop says it would be wrong to label it as an instance of ‘police brutality’

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s top-ranking police officials were quick to admit lapses and mistakes on the part of Manila cops in the violent dispersal of protesters in front of the United States embassy. But National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde draws the line when it comes to labeling the incident as an instance of “police brutality.”

“Not actually brutality. Yung brutality naman is sobra (The term brutality is too much)… it is not the right word. Maybe there was an excessive use of force, not necessarily brutality. Kung brutality most likely namatay na yun (If it were brutality, they might be dead now),” Albayalde told reporters on Thursday, October 20.

On Wednesday, October 19, scores of protesters and police were injured in a controversial clash between the two. The protesters, composed mostly of indigenous people, were about to wrap up their anti-American protest in front of the embassy when police began dispersing the crowd.

The situation then turned violent – protesters began hurling paint, rocks, and the like towards cops while cops released tear gas. Eventually, one police officer drove a police vehicle back and forth through the crowd. Video of the police vehicle running over several protesters have gone viral on social media.

Another video taken by media who covered the protest shows truncheon and shield-bearing cops stopping a jeep and forcing its driver out of his seat before they began beating him up. The bloodied male lay motionless on the pavement before another police officer arrived and brought the driver to a hospital.

President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he wants the embassy dispersal investigated first before he blames anyone. PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa echoed Duterte’s statement on Thursday, October 20. Both Duterte and Dela Rosa are in China for the President’s 4-day China visit.

The ground commander and 8 other cops had been relieved from their posts as they go through a police probe. 

The incident has caused an uproar in the Philippines, with many criticizing the police for their response to the situation. Some have also criticized the protesters themselves for supposedly being violent.

“There are incidents wherein some reactions of the police are unreasonable and unjustified, like for example what the driver, [Police Office 3 Franklin Kho did]. As I’ve said, walang sapat na dahilan para gawin niya iyon, kahit tignan frame by frame yung incident. Anong nag trigger para gawin niya iyon? I can easily say na walang sapat na dahilan,” said Director Benjamin Magalong, PNP Deputy Director for Operations and current officer-in-charge of the PNP.

(There is not enough reason for him to do that, even if you look at the incident frame by frame. What triggered him to do that? I can easily say that there is not enough reason for him to do that.)

Magalong added: “Second, walang dahilan sa pag-accost nung jeepney driver na rallyista, wala ring sapat na dahilan para saktan siya (There is no reason for police to accost the jeepney driver who was also a protester, there is also no reason for them to hurt him).”

Kho, according to Magalong, is currently undergoing a neuropsychology test. But Manila Police District chief Senior Superintendent Joel Colonel said “based on personnel file,” he was of “good moral character, outstanding behavior” with no pending cases. He could face charges of gross misconduct, violating police operational procedures, on top of criminal charges for serious physical injuries.

Police will be asking witnesses who took video of the clash for copies of their footage. The PNP has also requested Closed Circuit Television footage from the US embassy. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.