“Today, we witnessed how even our local security forces are keen on employing violent tactics to quell the dissent of the marginalized and the oppressed.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – At least 50 protesters were wounded and 29 were arrested by the Manila Police District (MPD) in a violent dispersal of a rally by Moro and indigenous peoples in front of the US embassy here in Manila at noon today, Oct. 19.
Police fired tear gas and mauled rallyists with truncheons, while a police patrol mobile rammed into a row of protesters, just when they were wrapping up a peaceful program.
Among those wounded were Piya Macliing Malayao, secretary general of Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) and Sandugo lead convenor, Quenilyn Gromeo, 16, of Anakbayan-PUP, and Baling Katubigan, a 61-year old Lumád woman from Kasalo-Caraga.
Obet de Castro of Bayan Muna partylist said that Malayao is among the 10 being treated at the Philippine General Hospital. Two others are being treated at the Ospital ng Maynila.
De Castro said Police Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo Jr, MPD deputy director for operations ordered the dispersal in spite of having agreed to allow the protesters to hold a program.
Led by the Kilusan ng Moro at Mamamayang Katutubo para sa Sariling Pagpapasya (Sandugo), the 1,000 protesters came from various ethnolingustic tribes from Luzon and Mindanao, and were part of the 3,000-strong Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya that arrived in Manila last week.
Marching from Kalaw avenue, the protesters managed to break the first police blockade and pushed their way right into the front of the US embassy. Police promptly blasted the protesters with a water cannon. But several youths got through, splattered red paint on the US embassy seal and spray-painted slogans on the embassy wall.
Ironically, the police brutality was a far cry from the warm reception given by President Duterte to Lumád leaders after his June 30 inauguration and State of the Nation Address in July.
Twenty-nine protesters were arrested, including some wounded: six health practitioners, including Dr. Julie Caguiat-Nisperos of Health Alliance for Democracy, who was giving first aid to the wounded when nabbed; a member of the alternative media Southern Tagalog Express (STEx), and 21-year-old Moro youth, identified only as “Mangulamas” from Tamontaka, Cotabato City.
Two female minors age 14 and 15, were also among those arrested, said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
UPDATE:The 29 arrested were eventually released around 4 p.m.
Jong Monzon, secretary general of Pasaka Confederation of Lumád Organizations in Southern Mindanao, said many of those arrested are Lumád evacuees who have long been victims of human rights violations – threatened and harassed by state forces and paramilitary groups in their communities.
After the dispersal, the rallyists quickly regrouped and staged a protest in front of the MPD headquarters to call for the release of the 29 arrested and to condemn the police brutality. The MPD played blaring Christmas songs in an attempt to drown out the rallyists’ program.
Sandugo slammed police commander Pedrozo
In its statement, Sandugo condemned MPD’s Pedrozo for what it called “heavy-handed, inhumane dispersal.”
The last speaker, Elmer Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) was finishing up the one-hour program when police began mauling the protesters with truncheons, followed by firing tear gas and the rampaging police mobile.
Jerome Succor Aba, national spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro and Sandugo lead convenor condemned the MPD and called on the President to put a stop to the police brutality, which only “serves to highlight the imperialist plunder, abuses, and continued domination of the US in the country.”
“Is this how the government treats its national minorities? Is this the answer to our plea to stand up for national sovereignty and protect the interests of national minorities from the claws of Washington?” Aba asked.
“Today, we witnessed how even our local security forces are keen on employing violent tactics to quell the dissent of the marginalized and the oppressed,” he said.
The Sandugo rallyists are calling for the pullout of US troops from the country, as they expressed support for Duterte’s declaration for an independent foreign policy. The group also called for the junking of the onerous defense pacts with the US, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) and the Mutual Defense Treaty.
“Here in Manila, our calls are met with water cannons, and now teargas and brute force. In our ancestral communities, the attacks are far worse: we all know of the repeated cases of murders against our kin. Everywhere we turn, we Lumads and other national minorities are being brutalized,” said Dulphing Ogan, secretary-general of Kalumaran.