Foreigner writes open letter to SONA rally's crying cop
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Dutch national who joined a rally to protest the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, July 22, got mixed reactions on social media as a photo of him shouting at a policeman went viral.
Thomas van Beersum, who went to the Philippines to participate in the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace, shouted at PO1 Joselito Sevilla, who later on broke into tears.
The public sentiment led Van Beersum to write an open letter to Sevilla. He posted the letter on his Facebook wall.
“I write this letter because unlike the other police at the protest, you did not act violently like your mates and you did not attack us. You did what you thought was right," Van Beersum said. "You were confronted with the repressive character of the police and did not follow the orders of your superiors.”
Van Beersum said he shouted at Sevilla after the initial confrontation with the police.
“You are the ones that are hurting us! You started this conflict! Why are you doing this?” he recalled telling the cop.
According to a report by ABS-CBN, Sevilla calmly answered: “I am a policeman. I’m just doing my job.” Then he started crying.
Some Facebook and Twitter users condemned Van Beersum for his actions, while some lauded him for fighting for human rights.
An open letter
In his letter, Van Beersum said he joined the rally because “I am tired of the extrajudicial killings, the illegal arrests, the forced demolitions, the land-grabbings, the puppetry to US imperialism, tired of all the oppression and exploitation of the workers, farmers, students, women, indigenous, urban poor, LGBTs, and all other oppressed groups.”
He said he was moved by the stories he had been hearing from the protesters.
“Many of the protesters have many experiences with family members, friends, and acquaintances who have been murdered or tortured by this regime. They had every reason to demonstrate against the Aquino government,” he added.
The Dutch national explained that the protesters stayed calm despite the violence that the police were trying to start. Van Beersum noted, however, that Sevilla was different from the other police.
“The police started to push us away, but I did not see you joining them. You stayed at the same place, crying behind your shield. I was wondering whether you did not attack us because you were overwhelmed of the situation, or if you had a genuine realization about who was causing this excessive use of repressive violence,” he said.
Van Beersum commended Sevilla and called his action a "noble act."
“I write this letter because unlike the other police at the protest, you did not act violently like your mates and you did not attack us. You did what you thought was right. You were confronted with the repressive character of the police and did not follow the orders of your superiors,” he added.
Ending his letter, Van Beersum invited Sevilla to join the ranks of the protesters and defend the rights of the people.
“I hope to see you again next year, during the SONA protest of 2014. But then I hope that we will be on the same side. Together against the crimes of the state and against the violent forces that exist purely to defend that state. Together in upholding the interests of the Filipino people,” Van Beersum said.
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Etta Rosales cried foul on van Beersum's action toward the police.
"He has no business in the rally. It's not his business shouting at an official," Rosales told Rappler.
Rosales maintained that foreigners are allowed to join protests but they should respect the Philippine authorities.
"They should observe the human rights of the agents of the state," she added.
The CHR has yet to discuss the specific actions to be taken on van Beersum's action.
Rappler called the Marikina police, to which Sevilla belongs, but they have yet to issue a statement regarding the incident.– Rappler.com
The full letter can be viewed here.