They could have simply rested on the fact that the President is already on their side. Some members of the Left are now in the President’s Cabinet. For the first time, they found themselves comfortably exchanging pleasantries and even had a group picture with the President in Malacañang, much different from what they were used to when they battled out with truncheons and water cannons.
The President himself echoed their anti-American sentiments, and has bannered an independent foreign policy, and has warmed-up to China.
Thus, it was beyond reason to many why the Left had to still mount a rally at the US Embassy, mouthing anti-imperialist slogans, condemning EDCA, and shouting for an independent foreign policy.
And it is also beyond comprehension to many why they have to deploy the Lumads in an anti-US rally, when an examination of the issues confronting the latter reveals that American imperialism is so far detached from what they are fighting for. Mindanao Lumads are fighting for their ancestral lands now being threatened by corporate mining interests. They are also fighting for their lives in the face of para-military brutality serving those interests.
While indeed US neo-colonial presence can be far-reaching, it is a bit of stretch to make it as an issue. EDCA is so far detached in the fight of indigenous Lumads to protect their lands from encroachment. They are being threatened not by Americans but by Filipino para-military forces working for Filipino companies, abetted by Filipino politicians.
But for whatever reason, and motive, or sinister plans that the Left may have concocted, either in the service of their interest, or to deliberately undermine a President who has shown nothing but good will to them, the Constitution of the Republic protects their rights to assemble.
It is the same Constitution that engenders a regime of laws that underscores the duty of the military and police forces to serve and protect the lives of people, and to exercise maximum tolerance even when confronted by violence.
One could not fault the Left for demonstrating on an issue rendered somewhat moot by a President who tries so hard to be as accommodating to their interests. The Left always finds a reason to demonstrate, for it is in the nature of their beast.
And the Lumads are free to join any demonstration even if it may not be salient to their interests.
But we should condemn the police brutality, which was captured on video where a government vehicle was literally used as an assault weapon on unarmed leftist demonstrators, including some Lumads, in front of the US Embassy on Wednesday, the 19th of October, a day after members of the same group of Lumads were water-cannoned by the AFP when they rallied at Camp Aguinaldo protesting the militarization of their lands.
There could never be any excuse for assaulting the demonstrators, whatever were their reasons, however they were misbehaving. The police and the AFP are tasked to protect the people, and not to harm them.
What is even appalling was the fact that the order to disperse in the US Embassy incident, as per news reports, was apparently made subservient to US interests, to save face since it would be embarrassing to the US if the police did not show that they were in control.
It is exactly against this kind of subservience that the President vehemently protests, one that has been so structured into our psyche, and whose brutal manifestation was seen in a police force willing to maim our own people just to show the US that we care about their comfort and convenience, and that we are embarrassed that the gate of the US Embassy was defaced.
The police did a disservice not only to the Constitution, but to the President, for such act compromised his inclusive stance toward the left and his pro-Lumad position, and undermined his independent foreign policy declarations.
However, the more damaging effect was the fact that this single act of brutality has further affirmed the natural tendency of the police for impunity. Indeed, it would be easy to believe that the police would be capable of executing drug suspects in the darkest hours of the night, because it is easy for them to maim and assault demonstrators in broad daylight, in front of TV cameras, and in front of the embassy of a country whose government has been at the forefront in criticizing the President’s war on drugs.
The President should immediately work to unmask the forces whose incompetence or sinister machination was responsible for these inexcusable cases of state brutality, which include even that one in Camp Aguinaldo, and punish them without mercy. There is no room for clemency for those who commit brutality on the people whose Constitutional mandate is to protect them. Failure to do so can only but cement the criticism against the President as one who can allegedly condone such forms of state violence.