Intolerant and emboldened
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - March 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Cebu is no stranger to street protests and mass actions. Remarkably, for the longest time there have been no reported incidents of street demonstrations and other protest actions in the city turning awfully violent post-EDSA.

For example, one of the larger protest actions in the city organized by militants was the anti-ASEAN rally on January 15, 2007. The Philippines was then the host and Cebu was chosen as the venue of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

Local protesters marched from P. Del Rosario Street, then turned left to Osmeña Boulevard toward Colon before proceeding to the Malacañang sa Sugbo in the port area. As expected, anti-riot police with their shields and batons were present along the route toward the Malacañang sa Sugbo, and soon enough came face-to-face with the protesters.

There were a couple of tense moments as police tried to block the protesters from going towards the Malacañang sa Sugbo. But the tension did not come to a head because the Cebu City mayor showed up and demonstrated firm yet thoughtful control of the situation.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña, a figure respected by both sides of the divide, talked to the police and the rallyists. Even his mere presence helped control the situation, encouraging cooler and sensible heads to prevail.

Three days earlier, as the protesters marched from downtown and reached Mabolo, the mayor had successfully talked the rallyists out of marching toward the ASEAN Summit venue at the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City. Credit not only goes to the mayor but also to Cebu’s community of militant activists who, while some people find noisy or raucous, have never been known to turn violent and unruly.

Clueless state forces and greenhorn journalists may have feared possible injury from any violent clash that might happen --that stereotypical framing of protesters as an unruly mob.

But we know our fellow Cebuanos better. We are all familiar with Bayan Cebu’s Jaime Paglinawan and other veterans of Cebu’s militant left community. We know that Cebu’s parliament of the streets has never been a venue for senseless agitation.

So I was surprised when a confrontation ensued last month between the police and the protesters during the EDSA anniversary protest action in front of the Police Regional Office-7 headquarters. The conflict was over a loud sound system instigated by the police while the protest program was going on.

In this particular protest action the variables have not changed except one: Police nowadays have become emboldened under the watch of President Duterte to test the limits of our democratic system. They now even quarrel with the city mayor.

In their complaint against police officers filed last Friday at the Ombudsman, Professor Phoebe Sanchez of Karapatan, Jaime Paglinawan of Bayan, and John Ruiz III of Bayan Muna said it best: “The police officers’ twisted argument that since we have the right to speak they also have the right not to listen only betrays their gross ignorance of the law and of their duties as police officers.”

“The day when they not only refuse to listen to grievances expressed in a peaceful assembly but also maliciously impede such assembly by using government resources (loud sound system) to drown the ordinary people’s voices, is the day they should turn over their badge and resign their post,” said Sanchez, Paglinawan, and Ruiz.

Then came a statement from PRO-7 Chief Debold Sinas published yesterday in The FREEMAN: "Ang problema ani nila (protesters) is if naa na mi warrant (against them)."

It’s kind of a chilling message, actually.

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