PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said he would personally look into the violent dispersal of protesters in front of the United States Embassy last Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City on Friday night, the President said he wanted to speak with both the police and activists “to know what really happened.”
“I intend to look at it. I will try to talk to the police, invite him for coffee and I will talk to the activists … I would like to know what really happened,” Duterte said in a news conference after his arrival from a state visit to China.
It was unclear whether Duterte specifically wanted to have coffee with Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, who was seen in a viral video driving a police vehicle and running over the protesters.
But the President offered a possible explanation on the police’s actions.
“The police said natakot kasi na-corner sila [The police said they got scared because they were cornered]. There were just two of them, I think, in the crowd, they were surrounded by the group of militants,” Duterte said.
But he added: “I’m not justifying it. Just a maybe, baka he was under stress … they might gang up on him, hurt him, and so he acted on a, by instinct, self preservation … Hindi naman talaga `yung may gusto siyang patayin [He really had no intention to kill anyone].”
The President said he would question the police and activists himself.
“I would do the questioning myself,” Duterte said, adding that he did not want to see violence between police and the protesters, from the left or the right of the political spectrum, in the future.
He noted that his government had launched peace talks with communist rebels.
“We should stop it because we are talking and we are all Filipinos. I do not want anybody hurt there. Not the police, not the young militants,” he said.
“It’s about time that we should really treat this as a matter with civility.”
Piya Malayao, secretary general of the Katribu group who was among those hurt at the protest dispersal, said she was awaiting the President’s invitation, but cases would still be filed against the police officers.
Malayao and other protesters submitted the “findings” of their own probe into the incident to Malacañang on Friday.
“We are open to his invitation and we will wait for it to happen,” she said in an interview.
Malayao added: “At least he (Duterte) admitted that he still needed to know what actually transpired. Initially we are relieved by his pronouncement that he will be meeting with both the police and the demonstrators and personally do the questioning.”
“Even the President knows and values protests. The Manila Police District has much to learn on this matter.”
Members of indigenous peoples’ groups plan to file administrative and criminal charges against the law enforcers involved in the violent dispersal, specifically Manila Police District official Marcelino Pedroso and Kho, said Jerome Succor Aba, national spokesperson of the Suara Bangsamoro group, in an interview with The Manila Times.
“We have evidence, fact sheets on the affidavit that we submitted to Malacañang,” he said.
In the meeting with the President, activists will call for an independent team to investigate the violent dispersal, Aba said.
The group recalled the probe into the dispersal of the Kidapawan farmers’ rally spearheaded by the PNP in April, which went nowhere.
“We do not trust any investigations that will be made by the PNP because they are the perpetrators of the violent dispersal,” Aba said.