(Eagle News) — The Philippine National Police-National Capital Region has directed the immediate administrative relief of Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, and eight other policemen for their roles in the violent dispersal of rallyists in front of the United States embassy on Wednesday, October 19.
NCRPO director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde also said that one of those relieved was the driver of the police van that rammed and ran over protesters, causing injuries to dozens of people.
Albayalde said Kho would be transferred to the Regional Headquarters Office.
The PNP-NCRPO chief said the relief of the nine Manila cops was done to ensure that there would be an impartial investigation of the incident.
Pedrozo, who was the Manila Police District’s, deputy director for operations, was reportedly overheard ordering the policemen to fight the rallyists. He also defended PO3 Kho, the driver of the police van, saying he just wanted to transfer the van out of the way of the rallyists.
“Ang nangyari gusto agawin sa kanya ang mobile, kaya sa kagustuhan niya maialis at makaiwas sa pananakit ng mga raliyista ay iniwas niya ang sasakyan,” Pedroza said.
But a video footage showed how the police van, driven by Kho, deliberately rammed the protesters and even drove over some of the rallyists who stumbled in the streets, as they tried to steer clear of the van.
The video also shows the police van being deliberately driven back and forth even as rallyists tumbled down like bowling pins.
Photos also showed a second man trapped underneath the van after it had stopped, with his leg and hips under one of the back tires. He was later seen limping away.
President Rodrigo Duterte has also ordered an investigation of the incident, even as Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo condemned the “police violence against a peaceful rally.”
She said that among the rallyists were lumads, members of indigenous groups, from Mindanao.
Taguiwalo said she would submit a report to the President on this.
Ironically, the protesters were even supporting President Duterte’s call against the US interference in the Philippines.
Policemen used teargas and water cannons in trying to disperse the 1,000 anti-U.S. protesters on Wednesday.
Police said activists did not have a permit to protest and broke the windscreen of a police vehicle, which prompted police to retaliate.
Police chiefs said some of the protesters had sustained minor injuries, although rally organizers said 50 were hurt and five had been taken to hospital.
Police insisted the protesters had instigated the violence.
“We had to disperse them. They started it. They were trying to enter the embassy,” Chief Inspector Arsenio Riparip, one of the officers overseeing the incident, told AFP.
– Blame game –
But the protesters accused the police of starting the violence.
“It was the police who attacked the protesters. First they rammed the police vehicle against the people. Then they released tear gas and hit us with truncheons,” said one of the organisers, Amirah Lidasant.
Christina Palabay, secretary-general of the leftist rights group Karapatan, said 31 protesters were arrested.
Palabay slammed the police reaction as excessive, even if a few of the protesters had instigated the violence.
“They don’t have to run down people because of what some protesters did,” she told AFP.
National police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said in a statement that Manila police had been ordered to conduct an investigation to determine if proper procedures had been followed in dispersing the group.
“The PNP (Philippine National Police) assures the public that the investigation will determine the liabilities of all personalities from both sides whose involvement led to the violent incident,” he said.
US embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina declined to comment on Wednesday’s violence, referring media inquiries to the local police.
The Philippines has for decades been one of the US’s most important and loyal allies in Asia, but Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist and has close links to communists, has threatened to cut ties as he shifts closer to Beijing.
This has partly been in response to US criticism of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has killed thousands of people.
Duterte, who took office in late June, is currently in Beijing for a charm offensive aimed at improving ties with China and attracting billions of dollars of Chinese investment.
The rallyists were protesting against a military pact signed two years ago that allowed more U.S. troops and storage of equipment inside Philippine bases.
Duterte has railed ferociously on longtime ally United States, announcing plans to stop annual joint military exercises and review their military pact.
(Eagle News Service with reports from Reuters, Agence France Presse)