“We asked if we could extend our stay for the program but they wanted us out immediately,” Picorro said. The police dispersal team then began using the water cannon against the protesting drivers. Then Picorro said two stones were thrown at the drivers by someone hiding behind the firetruck. “The drivers were tired and angry. It was difficult to keep them calm. And when the two stones hit us, they (drivers) fought back,” he told Bulatlat.
Tear gas canisters were thrown at them, hurting them and the children who went with them. Then, the police dispersal team started hitting them with truncheons. Marvin Serrano, 25, one of the protesting drivers, said he did not even know what was happening at the time. He was buying softdrinks from a sidewalk vendor when a police officer hit him on the head.
When he was already lying on the ground, he was pleading to the police officer to stop hitting him “but they just continued to hit me. I blacked out and woke up in the city hall.”
Roberto Eugenio, 17, could not move his left arm when Bulatlat.com interviewed him around 9:00 p.m. inside the headquarters of the Manila Police District in United Nations Avenue. He said he was hit several times and used his left arm as a shield from the policeman’s truncheon.
Roberto Eugenio, 17, could barely stretch his arm from bruises. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
There were 16 kuliglig drivers, including Serrano and Eugenio, who were arrested that night. They are Nelson Pineda, 31, Morris Kasin, 38, Renato Pacorro, 40, Mary Joyce Margalili, 22, Marietta Comon, 42, Ato Ambag, 25, Ricardo Dayanan, 18, Armando Cudiamat, 40, Eddie Mangguilod, 50, Joey Macalino, 25, Norjamel David, 31, Allan Tayo, 35, Elioteryo Tisado, 53, Guiamel Mamuro, 26.
They were charged with illegal assembly, direct assault and obstruction of traffic. Margalili, who is detained with her one-month-old daughter, was turned over to the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Eighty-one kuliglig units were confiscated from the drivers after the protest action. Some were run over by a police truck.
Lawmakers and progressive organizations have expressed their solidarity with the kuliglig drivers. “All the kuliglig drivers were expressing was their desperate effort to save their livelihood,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said “>in a report, describing Lim as “heartless” for ordering the violent dispersal.
Based on news reports, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the police have gone overboard in dispersing the protesters and called it “police brutality.” He said the use of a police truck in crushing some of the kuligligs “was totally gratuitous and completely unjustifiable.”
Tinio said that instead of depriving their residents of their livelihood, the Manila local government should “exert greater efforts to find a compromise that is acceptable to the parties involved,” adding that the fact that they are “thriving means that they are providing a service that the community considers useful.”
Marvin Serrano, 25, said he was already lying on the ground but the police continued to hit him. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
In a press conference, Tinio said he and other progressive partylist groups would be filing a resolution to investigate the dispersal, look into the police guidelines in dispersing protesters and the accountability of government officials should there be any violations.
“The government should not violently respond to our fellow Filipinos who are poor but still seek a decent livelihood,” Kilusang Mayo Uno said in a statement.
Kadamay, an urban-poor group, on the other hand, said if the government does not want to see any kuliglig drivers and street vendors, who are being blamed for the traffic and for blocking the sidewalk, it should be able to provide enough jobs. The government, however, have failed to do so. “Do they want our people to sit around and die of hunger?”
The Promotion of Church People’s Response, on the other hand, said that the task of the government is to ensure the welfare of poor Filipinos “and not add to their agony.” They said that an independent body should investigate the Dec. 1 dispersal of kuliglig drivers.
The Supreme Court, however, did not issue a temporary restraining order on Dec. 1. Instead, the High Court sent the petition to the executive judge of the Manila Regional Trial Court.
“There’s no status quo or TRO issued by the Court on the case. It will be tried in the RTC because the court discerns that there may be factual issues raised, and the SC is not a trier of facts,” Gleo Guerra, deputy chief of the SC’s Public Information Office, said “>in a report.
Despite this, Picorro said they would strengthen their ranks as their fight to decent livelihood intensifies. “We urge President Aquino not to ‘baby’ Mayor Lim. He is already old,” Picorro said. “He (Lim) has already gotten away with the Quirino bus hostage-taking. Aquino should not allow the kuliglig issue to mar his administration.” (Bulatlat.com)