If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
This, apparently, was lost, especially on the driver of the Manila police vehicle with which he rammed through a crowd of protesters in front of the US embassy with no apparent intent to spare anyone from getting run over, based on a video footage taken in front of the US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday.
The blood, literally, has not dried up on Roxas Boulevard where the embassy is located and already, supporters of both the demonstrators and the police are up in arms accusing each other of violent acts, with the police side justifying the driver’s reaction to the brewing rage he saw around him.
Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd said the footage is “not the whole picture” of what happened. We want to hear the rest of what Pimentel has to say, from which we could gauge his sense of justice in this case.
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, once the country’s No. 1 policeman, said the driver was making a “personal judgment call” at the time. We hope that does not mean it was perfectly all right for the law enforcer to have become an emotional wreck of a monster on wheels.
Describing the reports that have reached him while in China with President Rodrigo Duterte, National Police chief Roland Dela Rosa was quoted by a Philippine TV news station as saying: “Nag-panic yung driver dahil nung kinuyog yung sasakyan niya gustong itaob ng mga ralista [The driver panicked because when the rallyists surrounded him to bash his van, they wanted to knock it over.”
That driver was fortunate to have missed killing any of the protesters who, ironically, were supporting the President’s “independent” foreign policy. It was also the police officer’s lucky day because his Mad Max moment caused only serious injuries to dozens, including colleagues in the Manila Police Department.
Interestingly, the object of scorn of the protesters led the proverbial cooler heads prevail in trying to help connect the dots in this violent episode.
Instead of finger pointing, the US Embassy on Thursday said the US “strongly supports democracy in the Philippines and supports the right to peaceful expression and demonstration.”
In a statement, the embassy called on “parties to engage in peaceful dialogue and exercise restraint.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, himself a staunch advocate of negotiation, not confrontation, said he will order an investigation into the bloody Wednesday rally on live TV.
The conciliatory stance of both the President and the US Embassy, however, has been preempted by the police defenders in the Senate who all but ruled (by whose authority, we don’t know) that the drive and the other officers are clean as a whistle.
How generous of Pimentel and Lacson to spare President Duterte of another headache, thoughtfully knowing perhaps that the President is up to his neck in what ails this country other than drug addicts and narco politicians.
What the two senators did, however, only cemented the very image of the police as untouchables entitled to flout the law. Besides that, the next batch of protesters against any embassy or a convent in mind can expect nothing but police brutality.
In a stern reminder to the police, though, Duterte has given an order for a “maximum tolerance policy” toward demonstrators of any political shade.
Saddened and angered by the horrific dispersal of visibly unarmed protesters was dela Rosa, who said he did not want any Filipino to get hurt and that he would deal with the US Embassy incident “swiftly and decisively.”
Apparently, however, the clueless police driver thought that he could get away with murder under the cover of the President’s take on the anti-drug war: “For as long as the police and soldiers do it in the performance of their duty, that’s my responsibility. As long as there is [the]police in an encounter, don’t investigate anymore because that is my order.”
Did that driver know that the demonstrators were fighting for Duterte’s independent foreign policy, and the subject of the protest had nothing to do with drugs?
Well, if it should turn out that all the lumad (indigenous peoples) and students and other activists in the mix of the Wednesday protesters are drug pushers and drug users, that law enforcer must think they deserve to die by the wheels of his police van. (Incidentally, October is Indigenous Peoples’ Month.)
However, for the probe to be fair, the investigation must also cover this “emotional,” panicky police officer, who has since been suspended. The public must be assured that this member of “Manila’s finest” is not dabbling in things that make him a candidate for Oplan Tokhang.