MANILA – Progressive solons condemned the use by the Philippine National Police of a long-range acoustic device or LRAD yesterday, Nov. 13, to disperse rallyists protesting the visit of US President Donald Trump and the opening of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas said they will file a resolution next week calling for a congressional investigation into the use of the LRAD, as they said the use by police “constitutes a new level of state violence as there was an intent to harm the protesters.”
Police tried to break the ranks of protesters led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) during the standoff at the corner of Padre Faura street and Taft avenue in Manila, first by bombarding them with two water cannons, and moments later, with the sonic device.
Below is a Facebook post by Arkibong Bayan, with the ear-splitting sound starting a minute into the video, and lasting for some 50 seconds.
“The latest anti-people weapon of the PNP must be probed and opposed,” Brosas said in a statement by GWP.
“Hindi pwedeng paglaruan lang nila ito kada may mobilisasyon para pagtakpan ang galit ng mamamayan. Hindi biro ang epekto nito sa pandinig at kalusugan ng mga nasa pagkilos, at maging sa kapulisan mismo,” (They can’t just toy with this to repress every mobilization expressing the rage of the people. This can have serious effect on the hearing and health of those in the rally, and on the ranks of the police, too),” she said.
Brosas also noted that patients of the nearby Philippine General Hospital (PGH) might have also been affected.
Yesterday’s dispersal was so far the most violent, compared to the mild skirmishes in the past days, with scores of police barricading the road to prevent protesters from getting near the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard, and the venue of the Asean summit in the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
In a statement, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said a total of 123 protesters were injured yesterday, while 20 others were also hurt during the dispersal on Nov. 12, the day of Trump’s arrival. Injuries included head contusions, open head wounds, possible fractures, and bruises.
“A severe case of a 24-year-old woman has been documented. She took a water cannon blast directly on her left ear, added with four head contusions as policemen hit her with their truncheons multiple times. She lost balance and started vomiting. She was taken to the Philippine General Hospital for further treatment after she was given first-aid,” said Dr. Jojo Carabeo, HEAD secretary general.
The US-based LRAD Corporation manufactures the device, designed for long-rage communication and mass notification. It was first used in the US in 2009 against protesters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who were against the G20 summit.
“Magkano ang pinambili ng PNP para rito? At ilan pang LRAD ang nakatabi sa arsenal ng kapulisan? Dapat na ilantad ito sa publiko,” (How much did the PNP purchase this? How many more LRAD are in the police arsenal? These should be made known to the public) Brosas said.
“PNP’s use of the sonic weapon brings the Duterte regime’s violence to a whole new level, and highlights the country’s puppetry, with LRAD manufactured in America for the defense of US President Trump, the most notorious face of sexism and militarism right now,” De Jesus said.
Aside from water cannons and truncheons, anti-riot police also use tear gas to disperse protesters, as they did on Oct. 19, 2016 when a police mobile mowed down Moro and indigenous peoples protesters in front of the US embassy. The PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are also known to drown out the sound of protesters in front of their main headquarters in Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo by playing blasting pop music.
“It is a desperate attempt to drown the legitimate calls of women and the people for the pullout of US troops and junking of one-sided trade and military agreements,” De Jesus said.
Brosas said some reports said the LRAD can have varied effects on the human body, including hearing trauma, permanent hearing loss and lingering headaches.
In spite of the police use of water cannons and truncheons, and yesterday with the LRAD, protesters have successfully held their rallies and programs in the past days.
“Lalo lamang lalakas ang mga panawagan ng mga mamamayan para sa tunay na pagbabago,”(This will only magnify the call of the people for genuine change) said De Jesus.