PNP on protest dispersal: Professionalism at its best

Tension arose after militant groups tried to go in front of the Commission on Human Rights along Commonwealth Avenue on May 25, 2022 to stage a protest rally and oppose the canvassing of the House of the Representative in Batasan, Quezon City.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday defended the dispersal of rallyists protesting last week’s proclamation of winning presidential and vice presidential candidates, saying the police action was “professionalism at its best.”

PNP officer in charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. assailed accusations against the police Civil Disturbance Management unit, saying “the melee was started by protesters who broke some of our CDM equipment and tried to march to a place where there should not be protests.”

“Last Wednesday, a group of unruly protesters tried to disrupt the proclamation as they repeatedly taunted our CDM personnel with unsavory words. Our men, many of them proud husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters to all, did not mind them,” Danao said.

“As different videos have shown, the fire department merely doused them with water. However, despite being soaked, protesters kicked and waggled the shields of our CDM personnel, sparking a brief scuffle. It was evident that they were harassing our policemen who were merely doing their job but to their credit, the NCRPO and QCPD personnel really acted with professionalism in dealing with the protesters. That’s professionalism at its best,” Danao added, referring to the National Capital Region and Quezon City police.

More than a dozen protesters were reportedly hurt by the PNP’s dispersal methods, drawing criticisms from rights organizations and the Commission on Human Rights, which said using water cannons and carrying firearms during peaceful protests are not allowed under Batas Pambansa Blg. 880.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes condemned Danao’s statements, saying he should study the law surrounding protests.

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Reyes added that Danao’s statements seem to be a “throwback” to the Arroyo administration’s calibrated preemptive response (CPR), which allowed police to break up non-violent opposition rallies. In 2006, CPR was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, saying it violates freedom of assembly.

“The police cannot violently disperse peaceful protesters even when they do not have rally permits or are outside the freedom park. To say that they cannot go an inch outside the freedom park, to justify violent police action, is a distortion of the law and is no different from CPR,” said Reyes.

Moreover, Reyes said, “The law also does not sanction the violent dispersal of peaceful rallies without permits. There is nothing in the Batas Pambansa 880 which says you can use truncheons and water cannons versus peaceful protesters even when they are outside freedom parks and have no rally permits.”

Danao, meanwhile, said he hopes fewer people would join protests, claiming that there are politicians who seek to destabilize the government and are taking advantage of the youth.

The PNP is expecting more protests to break out under the term of the next president, but Danao said Filipinos should be united and heed the people’s decision in the last elections.

“Thus, I am calling on the entire police force to remain united and act with professionalism in dealing with similar incidents in the future. Maximum tolerance is our policy, but we will see to it that the rule of law will always be followed in the event protesters would start creating trouble,” Danao said. – Rhodina Villanueva

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