39 more cops axed over dispersal

Non Alquitran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - At least 39 more policemen caught on camera hurting militant activists during a rally in front of the United States embassy in Manila Wednesday have been relieved from their posts, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde said yesterday.

Albayalde said the 39 policemen, including 16 members of the District Public Safety Battalion (DPSB), will temporarily be reassigned to the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters.

This brought to 48 the number of policemen relieved from their posts as the Philippine National Police (PNP) continues to draw flak due to the violent dispersal.

According to the NCRPO chief, MPD director Senior Superintendent Jigs Coronel identified the policemen through footage of television networks that covered the incident.

The 39 policemen will undergo tactical and psychological debriefing and possibly retraining to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Albayalde visited the MPD headquarters and talked with the 39 policemen and other members of the DPSB.

“I had a brief chat with them to assure them that they would not be left out in the cold,” he said in an interview, noting the low morale of the cops at this time.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group was tasked to investigate the incident.

Earlier, Albayalde ordered the relief of Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo, MPD deputy district director for operations and the overall ground commander of the policemen deployed in the rally, and eight other officers, including the cop who rammed the protesters with a van.

They were reassigned at the NRCPO’s Regional Public Holding Administrative Unit at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

The Palace welcomed yesterday representatives of militant groups who marched to Malacañang, asking President Duterte to form an independent fact-finding body to investigate the violent dispersal.

Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag of the Presidential Communications Office met with Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan; Piya Macliing Malayao, lead convenor of Sandugo; and Jerome Aba, spokesman of Suara Bangsamoro.

Malayao was among 20 protesters hurt during the dispersal and one of three persons injured when a police vehicle driven by Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho plowed through protesters.

The other two were identified by protesters as student Quenilyn Gromeo and 61-year-old lumad leader Baling Katubigan.

“Last Wednesday, the President already made the announcement… that they are investigating what really transpired before the incident,” she said.

As soon as the President comes home, Banaag said he will issue further announcements on the incident.

Operations manual violated

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday said the policemen involved in the aggressive dispersal appeared to have violated the operations manual of the PNP.

The CHR expressed “serious concerns” over videos of the incident. 

“Footages also reveal policemen who were running after the protesters as their jeepneys were moving away from the demonstrations. Policemen were seen dragging a driver out of the vehicle and hitting him with their truncheons,” the CHR said. 

“The police operations manual was not followed, especially when Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo of the Manila Police District was caught on video castigating his men for not fighting, and for not arresting the protesters, thereby fueling further an already charged situation,” it added. 

The CHR called on the PNP to initiate an investigation and hold accountable those responsible for the violent acts. 

The commission has also initiated its fact-finding investigation of the incident. 

The CHR urged the PNP to respect the constitutionally mandated right to organize and petition the government for redress of grievances. 

The CHR also called on the protesters to show respect to police authorities and conduct protests in a peaceful and orderly manner.

‘Pure insanity’

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), for its part, yesterday said it was “shocked and appalled” by the violent manner the protesters were dispersed by the PNP during the rally at the US embassy.

“It was pure insanity,” the OPAPP said in a statement.

The OPAPP said that no amount of justification can cover up for the harsh and bloody breakup of the protest action.

“We will not condone these unjustifiable acts and we expect expeditious action,” it said.

“It is not the policy and character of the administration of President Duterte to use unnecessary and excessive force to deal with legitimate forms of dissent of the people,” the OPAPP added.

It said the government aims to address the issues behind these protests through peace talks.

“It will be unfortunate if we will fail to achieve peace because of the propensity of others to use excessive force in dealing with dissent. We demand immediate, thorough and impartial investigation,” the OPAPP said. – With Christina Mendez, Janvic Mateo, Jose Rodel Clapano, Ghio Ong

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