THE National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on Thursday sacked nine police officers involved in the violent dispersal of the anti-US rally in front of the American embassy in Manila on Wednesday.
The nine Manila Police District (MPD) officers relieved included Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police vehicle that rammed into and run over the protesters.
Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde, the NCRPO director, said the nine were “administratively relieved to pave the way for the investigation.”
“While the NCRPO maintains that our policemen have observed our policy on maximum tolerance, we cannot ignore the rule of law. A thorough investigation on the matter to determine charges against protesters and police officers is now being conducted,” he said.
The official expressed regret over the violence, but said the protesters ignited the tension.
“Despite efforts to negotiate for peaceful withdrawal of the protest group [Wednesday] morning composed of 400 to 500 members, after reminding them that they did not have a permit, and [giving them]10 minutes to voluntarily depart the area, the rallyists breached the [police]lines and began throwing paint and other debris at the entrance gates of the embassy,” Albayalde said.
The confrontation resulted in injuries to 35 police officers, 22 protesters and damage to police vehicles. The MPD claims the protesters attempted to forcefully overturn the vehicle driven by Kho.
Twenty-one protesters were arrested, but were later released.
Also removed from their posts were Sr. Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, MPD deputy director for operations and over-all supervisor; Supt. Albert Barot, MPD Station 5 commander and ground commander; Chief Insp. Dionelle Brannon, Pedro Gil Police Community Precinct commander; Chief Insp. Elmer Oseo, Station 5 deputy; Chief Insp. Joebie Astucia, Station 5 chief of operations; Chief Insp. Roberto Marinda, commander of a police augmentation force; Chief Insp. Roberto Mangune, commander of police detailed at the embassy; and Senior Insp. Edgardo Orongan, chief of operations of the MPD public safety battalion.
“They will be re-assigned to the regional headquarters,” said MPD spokeswoman Supt. Marissa Bruno.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, on Thursday said he was angered and saddened after seeing the video of the violent dispersal.
In a statement, he said: “I don’t like to see Filipinos getting hurt.”
“But I cannot let emotions get the best of me. As chief of the PNP, I have a duty and moral obligation to look into this squarely, and deal with it swiftly and decisively,” de la Rosa said.
The US Embassy in Manila expressed sympathies to those who were injured and wished for their quick recovery.
“The US strongly supports democracy in the Philippines and supports the right to peaceful expression and demonstration. We call on parties to engage in peaceful dialogue and exercise restraint,” the US Embassy said.
‘Get whole picture’
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd on Thursday appealed to the public not to quickly pass judgment on the PNP, as he urged de la Rosa to investigate the incident.
“The video on its own is very disturbing, but is not the whole picture. We must not pass judgment until we know the whole story,” he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said it was unfair to the PNP as an institution to be accused of police brutality in relation to the incident.
“It was a personal judgment call of the driver of the van. Maximum tolerance or not, he acted based on his appreciation of the situation prevailing at the time he made that move,” Lacson said.
Senator Richard Gordon said both sides must be put to task, but noted that running over people and hitting them with batons were unacceptable.
“You are there to protect civilians not harm them. You have to be more understanding and unless you are in self-defense, you have no authority to hit or hurt anybody,” Gordon said.
The protesters were a part of the “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan,” and were rallying in support of the administration’s pursuit of an “independent foreign policy.”