US envoy: Violence outside embassy 'disturbing'

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Thursday, October 20, described a recent clash outside the US embassy as "disturbing," but said he is leaving discussions on this to the Philippine government.

"Well it was disturbing, obviously, and we're sad that people were injured – and people were injured on the police side as well. There was some violence that was not associated with the van also, and paint thrown at the embassy," Goldberg said in a Rappler Talk interview.

"We're grateful to the police for protecting the embassy, but I’m not aware of all of the details that the police may be looking into," he said.

Goldberg added: "The embassy is a diplomatic facility and needs to be protected, but at the same time, it’s the Philippine National Police (PNP) that protects the perimeter and the street and the flow of people and traffic, and follow what people are and are not allowed to do in terms of where they congregate. So I leave it to the government here to discuss."

Goldberg issued these remarks after a violent clash between anti-US protesters, mostly indigenous peoples, and the PNP outside the US embassy on Wednesday, October 19. (IN PHOTOS: Police van runs over protesters; PNP orders probe)

During this clash, a police officer even drove a police vehicle back and forth through the crowd. The vehicle ran over several protesters – and this was caught on video.

Clash affecting PH image

Officials on Thursday admitted lapses on the part of the Manila police, but National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Oscar Albayalde said it was "not actually brutality."

President Rodrigo Duterte, for his part, said he will first investigate the matter before pointing fingers. 

In his interview with Rappler, Goldberg said Wednesday's clash is affecting the Philippines' global image.

Goldberg said: "You mentioned the incident at the embassy yesterday. You know, that was on the 3 network newscasts in the United States – ABC, NBC, and CBS. The video was shocking, but it was also tied to a kind of anti-US riot."

Goldberg pointed out that leftists "demonstrate in front of the embassy regularly, the leftist militant groups." Wednesday's protesters, however, formed "a larger group than usual, and maybe that's because of some of the environment at the moment."

"But it's also the case that that's the image that’s created, and it feeds on that," he said. "You have to deal with the perceptions also. And then if you add in some of the rhetoric and the rest, that's the impression that's created – in Europe, in the United States, in many parts of the world." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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