On October 19, more than a thousand protesters, mainly from indigenous and Moro groups under the Sandugo Alliance, and supported by BAYAN, staged a protest in front of the US Embassy. They were able to reach the front gates of the embassy and proceeded with their program. The peaceful program was disrupted by the police when they started dispersing the protesters.
Let us address point by point the claims of the police as they appeared in the media.
1. “I did not order the dispersal” – Col. Marcelino Pedrozo, MPD operations chief
The truth: A video by GMA7 shows Pedrozo berating the Manila police for not arresting anyone and for allowing protesters near the embassy. They have lost face with the US embassy, he says. He then orders the ground commander to disperse the protesters despite being told that the rally was about to end. All this is on video.
2. “The police did not intentionally run over the protesters.” The driver was maneuvering and was under threat as protesters wanted to overturn or take control of the vehicle, according to Pedrozo and NCRPO Chief Gen. Abayalde.
The truth: A careful review of the video prior to the vehicle rampage will show that the driver of the police van was under no immediate threat. Protesters were not even touching his vehicle. There was no attempt to seize or overturn his vehicle. All of a sudden he accelerated in reverse and started running over protesters. Video footage will show he drove backwards twice and forward twice. Such movements could hardly be considered accidental. Upon review of the video, it is clear that the police van was actually used to clear protesters. It was deliberate, not an accident. The driver of the police vehicle has been identified as a certain PO3 Franklin Kho.
It is also disturbing that during the rampage, not one police official could be seen intervening to stop the vehicle and protect the protesters. Had it been a legitimate accident, the PNP should have intervened to prevent further injuries. The police van only stopped when the front of the embassy was cleared.
3. Protesters were violent and had no permit.
The truth: The protesters had been holding a peaceful program in front of the US embassy for more than an hour. They were down to their last speaker when Pedrozo gave the order to disperse. In the first video, the ground commander could be heard telling Pedrozo that the program was down to its last two speakers. The violent dispersal involved tear gas fired by the SWAT team, truncheons from the dispersal unit, and a vehicle used to ram protesters. The police had planned the dispersal to save face with the US embassy. Moments before the commotion, a plainclothes police official approached me and told me how mad the District Chief was and that there was an order to disperse the protesters. I told him we were down to our last speaker and that the group was about to leave the area. From this particular conversation, it is plain that the dispersal was planned and unprovoked. It began with the arrival of Pedrozo at the rally site. It ended with 42 arrests, which included our entire medic team including a doctor, a nurse and health volunteers and a media person. Most of those arrested were Lumad from Mindanao including two minors. All injured who were brought to the hospital were deemed arrested and were placed under police guard. A jeepney driver was pulled out from his vehicle and repeatedly hit on the head with truncheons by anti-riot police and was left to die, until a police official brought him to a hospital.
Violent protesters? Clearly it was the PNP who was dishing out the most gruesome violence during the protest.