“This simply reeks of fascism to gag legitimate dissent that must be respected by any government that honestly wants to be called even remotely democratic, much less humane or even civilized.” – Edre Olalia, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Four policemen held Ronel Madrigal by his hands and feet. When he was brought to the command outpost of the Philippine National Police (PNP) near the protest site, blood was oozing down his face.
“I’m dizzy,” he told the policemen in Filipino. It took a few minutes before a policeman applied first aid on him. Madrigal, a member of cultural group Sinagbayan, joined other protesters who were arrested during the rally against President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Handcuffed, those arrested were later brought to Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District. As of press time, they have not yet been released.
Determined to get near the Batasang Pambansa, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and allied organizations asserted their right to assembly. When they approached Ever Gotesco mall, the protesters maneuvered to the northbound lane of Commonwealth Ave. Thousands of policemen, wielding truncheons and shields blocked them. Fire trucks and garbage trucks stood by. A skirmish ensued.
Besides Madrigal, also arrested were Eugene Sambrano of Migrante International, Renz Albert Pascual of the League of Filipino Students, Kyel Munoz of Anakbayan-University of the Philippines Diliman.
Also forcibly taken by policemen were Ramdas Israel of Agham, Felizardo Repaso of Piston, Isidro Pollon of Anakpawis-Paranaque and ice candy vendor Alberto Beronque. Another protester, identified only as Raymond of Piston, was also reportedly arrested.
“I was only selling ice candy. They [police] have mistaken me for a protester,” Beronque told Bulatlat.com. When asked where his goods were, Beronque said he lost his icebox when the policemen manhandled him.
One of the student activists blurted out: “Are we criminals? We are only exercising our rights.”
Another told the police: “We have rights. You did not even mention to us our Miranda rights.” A policeman with the nameplate PO1 Pangan answered back: “How about the Miranda rights of the policemen you hurt?”
Miranda rights refer to the rights of those arrested and detained.
By 2 p.m., the tension subsided and the protesters held a program along the southbound lane of Commonwealth avenue.
More than 40 were reportedly injured, including two senior citizens. One of them Rodolfo del Rosario, 70, is a member of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda). Many of those injured were taken to the East Avenue Medical Center. Those hit on the head needed to undergo CT scan.
Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, lost consciousness during the skirmish. As of press time, Flores is still at the hospital.
Several of the protesters, mostly from youth organizations, went straight to Camp Karingal to demand the release of their colleagues.
“There is no reason for the police to block our protest,” Anton Dulce of Anakbayan said during the indignation rally in front of Camp Karingal. “We only asserted our right.” Dulce branded the police’s reaction as overkill and said they were seven kilometers away from President Aquino.
“Our enemy was not the policemen but the one who ordered them to block us. Noynoy [Aquino] is not a democratic president,” Dulce added.
A law student, Dulce pointed out that “the people have the right to assembly and a mere technicality does not negate that right.” Bayan applied for a permit to rally at the Batasang Pambansa but the Quezon City government denied the petition.
The protesters vowed to stay in front the of the police camp until their colleagues are released.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, condemned the police brutality. “Sona is Oplan Bayanihan concretized. After offering flowers and balloons, the true character of the Aquino government rears its ugly head as scores of protesters were wounded as they asserted their right to march toward Batasang Pambansa,” Palabay said.
Oplan Bayanihan is the counterinsurgency program of the Aquino administration.
Palabay scored the police for not heeding the call of protesters for a negotiation.
Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), branded the police’s actions as “premeditated treachery.” “The police officers who were sent by their senior officials were just feigning to negotiate with us. It turned out that they were deceitfully bent on unleashing the brute force of their army of attack dogs to stop at all costs the effective expression of the people’s discontent. This simply reeks of fascism to gag legitimate dissent that must be respected by any government that honestly wants to be called even remotely democratic, much less humane or even civilized,” the human rights lawyer said.