Freeman Region

14 cops hurt in violent farmers’ protest rally

Jennifer P. Rendon - The Freeman

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – It was a rally the protesters had wanted to pull through, even with the readiness of using violence, which resulted in the injury of 14 anti-riot policemen.

At least 800 members of various progressive groups staged a protest rally on Sunday along Rizal Street in Jaro district, this city, but they came ready and armed with stones, rotten eggs and human feces, which they threw at the hundreds of policemen who tried to contain the protesters.

The protesters, from the Bukluran ng Progresibong Magsasaka ng Pilipinas and the Alab Katipunan, among others, allegedly assaulted the policemen who tried to disperse their ranks when they turned violent.

While protest actions were not new in this city, observers said it was not the first time that militant groups exerted physical antagonism towards policemen and, this time, 14 neophyte policemen were injured as a result.

The policemen, all with the rank of police officer 1, were: Raul Stanley Ticar, Jhonvel Artuz, John Rey Aguirre, John Paul Olino, Eddieson Alvares, Robert Buaya, John Dale Omagap, Vergel Gamas, Marlon Calong, Ramy Castor, Engelbertte Noblezada, Elvin Garino, Win Narcis and Eduardo Ginelia.

Senior Superintendent Cornelio Salinas, director of the Iloilo City Police Office, said their injuries ranged from bruises to hematoma after they were struck with bamboo poles and pelted with stones.

Salinas, who was also commander of the Sub-Site Task Group Peace and Order for APEC 2015–Iloilo, confirmed the protesters also brought with them human feces, and bamboo poles to attack the policemen. “In my several years of assignment in Iloilo, never did I encounter such a violent rally,” said the Ilonggo police official.

Authorities also confirmed there were minors who were in the ranks of the protesters. Rebecca Geamala, assistant regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-6 said video footage are now being reviewed to identify the minors, their parents and the rally organizers.

The protesters also assaulted photojournalist Guijo Dueñas, whose camera they forcibly took after suspecting him of being an intelligence officer of the police.

The protesters, carrying the banner “People’s Forum on APEC 2015,” staged the mass action to condemn the ongoing APEC Food Security Meeting at the Iloilo Convention Center. The clash halted traffic flow in the four corners of Jaro Plaza while law enforcers tried to stop the group from marching to the ICC.

Asiong Lim, secretary general of Alab Katipunan, said the group raised the issue on food security, particularly of farmers, with regard to the proliferation of genetically-modified organisms, which they labeled as “terminator seeds.”

Salinas and Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz, Police Regional Office-6 director and concurrent commander of the Site Task Group APEC-Iloilo, said they exercised “maximum tolerance” despite the provocation from the protesters, whose activity did not even have a permit from the City Hall. “They (protesters) know they don’t have the necessary permits, yet we let them exercise their constitutional rights, but tt’s too much,” Salinas said.

Salinas negotiated with the group to calm the tense situation and tried to talk to its leaders but he got pelted with stones instead. “We were provoked but still we maintained our composure and restrained ourselves from being violent.”

Following the incident, police arrested 52-year-old Joel Gepaya, a native of Guimbal, Iloilo who was chairman and coordinator of Alab Katipunan-Panay. He would be be charged for direct assault, physical injuries, violation of Batas Pambansa 880 (The Public Assembly Act of 1985), alarm and scandal, disobedience to lawful order, and malicious mischief.












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