PNP: No repeat of May 1 riots
() - April 29, 2002 - 12:00am
Metro Manila police chief Deputy Director Gene-ral Edgar Aglipay said yesterday much has been learned from the bloody May 1 riots at Malacañang last year and the 10,000 anti-riot policemen to be fielded on Wednesday are prepared to quell any disorder.

Aglipay said the crowd dispersal and management units of Metro Manila’s five police districts are organized and equipped to deal with any attempt to repeat last year’s assault on Malacañang which left four people dead and millions of pesos in property damage.

"We learned from our lapses," Aglipay said. "And armed with such lessons, I can now say that we are fully prepared for any eventuality against the rallyists on Wednesday."

Aglipay made the assurance after several groups were granted permits by Manila City Hall to conduct peaceful rallies at Liwasang Bonifacio.

The Estrada loyalist group People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP) was allowed to stage a rally from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sanlakas and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Bayan and Gabriela from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Aglipay said an initial 3,000 policemen will be deployed in the vicinity of Malacañang and no group will be allowed within 500 meters of the Palace gates.

The number of anti-riot policemen can be quickly increased and augmented by military personnel "if the situation requires it."

He said police will also secure the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City, the two chambers of Congress, Supreme Court and the US Embassy as well as the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where former President Joseph Estrada is detained.

Aglipay said sufficient security measures are already in place while policemen conducted an inter-command crowd control competition, with a prize of P30,000, at Rizal Park yesterday. The Western Police District (WPD) won the contest.

Aglipay said anti-riot squads have been training for the past four months based on the police assessment of the measures taken when some 5,000 Estrada loyalists marched to Malacañang from the EDSA Shrine before dawn on May 1 last year.

The assessment was contained in a nine-page report by Northern Police District (NPD) director Chief Superintendent Vidal Querol, the commander of the anti-riot units at Malacañang last year.

In the report, Querol said the riots were mainly due to the police’s failure to disperse the Estrada loyalists while they were marching from the EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong to Malacañang Palace.

He said police managed to disperse the crowd twice but their failure to effectively use tear gas and water cannons, failure to organize, lack of equipment and poor leadership allowed the loyalists to regroup and threaten the police phalanx.

Querol also noted that after the riots a large number of arrested rallyists tested positive for liquor or drugs, and manifested a fanatical belief in Estrada, two of whose sons were found to have been egging the crowd during the march. Estrada’s sons disappeared when the crowd reached San Miguel district.

While Aglipay did not reveal what security measures will be implemented around the Palace, he said anti-riot squads are well-prepared with mobile teams ready to deliver more than 1,000 pieces of tear gas canisters to the dispersal units.

He said mobile groups, called "rat patrols," are also prepared to deliver more tear gas to the anti-riot squads and immediately transport arrested rallyists to nearby detention centers. Bomb dispersal squads will also be on alert.

"We prepared hard for this and I hope the rallyists would not resort to violence because we are fully prepared to combat any threat," Aglipay said.

While stressing that the police have been instructed to adopt a policy of "mega-tolerance," he pointed out they will not hesitate to enforce the law once the rallyists become unruly or violate the law.

"They should respect the law, respect the rights of other persons and their property and the right of people to live," Aglipay said.
Solon cries ‘overkill’
Meanwhile, opposition Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta described as "overkill" police preparations for Labor Day and said the Arroyo administration was in a "state of grand funk" and "spooked by what it perceives as purported threats to the government’s stability."

Last year, President Arroyo declared a "state of rebellion" in Metro Manila and ordered the arrest of key opposition figures after Estrada loyalists, many of whom were armed with homemade guns known as "sumpak," stormed the gates of Malacañang.

The loyalists marched from the EDSA Shrine where they had gathered since April 26 in an attempt to replicate the "people power 2" uprising that ousted their disgraced idol just three months earlier.

The loyalists started gathering at the shrine after Estrada was arrested at his Greenhills mansion and brought to the Philippine National Police’s Camp Crame headquarters.

Estrada’s political allies, many of whom were running for re-election in the local and congressional elections of May 2001, also encouraged the EDSA rally and made speeches before the crowd for four days. The politicians disappeared when the crowd started marching to the Palace.

After the crowd was convinced that the military would not support another uprising, the loyalists started marching to Malacañang after midnight of April 30.

By dawn of Labor Day, some 50,000 thousand loyalists were gathered at the palace gates, facing a few hundred police, Army and Marine soldiers who were instructed not to fire their weapons. The police and military tried to push back the crowd for several hours and succeeded only before noon as the loyalists stampeded through Manila’s San Miguel, Sta. Cruz and Nagtahan districts, leaving a wake of destruction.

The mob set fire to several vehicles, including three television news vans and a backhoe, and broke shop windows and overturned vending machines. At least 12 policemen, a newspaper photographer and 25 civilians were injured and only 60 loyalists were arrested, police said. — Non Alquitran, Aurea Calica

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