Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III asked yesterday the police leadership to investigate the alleged violent dispersal of demonstrators in front of the US Embassy in Manila last Wednesday.
The dispersal incident was caught on video now going viral. It showed a police van running over the protesters who overran a phalanx of anti-riot policemen.
“I call on PNP (Philippine National Police) Director-General Ronald dela Rosa to immediately investigate this incident and take action against those responsible, uniformed or otherwise,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said the video showed a police van reversing into a crowd of protesters and then moving back and forth among them.
A protester in green was shown being pinned and run over by the van.
Pimentel however clarified that his call does not mean he is presuming guilt on any party.
“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 added.
Pimentel said he is concerned that the video may damage the image of the Philippine National Police force as a protector of the people.
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 independent foreign policy.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, however, defended the policeman who drove the wheel of a police van that plowed through a group of protesters.
“That was a judgment call made by one policeman behind the wheel of a police van who might have felt threatened by the possibility of being lynched by the protesters, and who impulsively drove the van wherever he could to avoid the dire consequences of his inaction,’’ he said.
Lacson, a former PNP Director-General during the Estrada administration, said it is unfair to the PNP as an institution to be accused of police brutality.
“It was a personal judgment call of the driver of the van,’’ he said.
“’Maximum tolerance or not, he acted based on his appreciation of the situation prevailing at the time he made that move,’’ he added.
9 COPS RELIEVED
Meanwhile, nine Manila Police District (MPD) members, including the driver of the police van that rammed at least five protesters, were administratively relieved pending investigation on the violent dispersal.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde ordered the relief of Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, Supt. Albert Barot, Chief Inspectors Dionelle Brannon, Elmer Oseo, Joebe Astucia, Roberto Marinda, and Roberto Mangune, Senior Inspector Edgardo Orongan, and PO3 Franklin Kho, the driver of police vehicle.
MPD spokesperson Supt. Marissa Bruno said the nine cops will be reassigned to regional headquarters.
“They will not occupy, they will not perform their functions, pending investigation,” she said.
As this developed, at least 15 cops who were hurt during the dispersal personally submitted individual sworn statements before MPD’s General Assignments and Investigation Section.
“They will be part of our fact-finding team. They will execute individually their sworn statements in support of our allegations that somebody violated the law. They will be our principal witnesses,” Senior Supt. Bartolome Bustamante, Chief District Directorial Staff, said
Bustamante said the policemen are still with MPD, but those who were “wounded or incapacitated will be excused from duty.”
“We have to know who was really at fault because both parties had injured members,” he said.
“What was seen on the video was Kho. We have to conduct an investigation on whether there was a deliberate intent to run over the rallyists.” (with a report from Jaimie Rose R. Aberia) (MARIO B. CASAYURAN)