MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers from the House Makabayan bloc filed a resolution calling for a congressional inquiry into the violent clash between police officers and indigenous peoples (IPs) who protested Wednesday, October 19, in front of the US Embassy.
House Resolution (HR) Number 487 was filed by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro on Thursday, October 20. Their co-authors include the following:
Photo from Bayan Muna
On Wednesday, IPs led by a newly-formed alliance of minority groups called Sandugo staged a protest at the US Embassy against alleged military and American presence in their ancestral lands.
The protesters were about to wrap up their rally when the police began dispersing them. Police set off tear gas and drove a police vehicle through the protesters’ ranks, leaving several hurt and at least one man stuck under the mobile car. (IN PHOTOS: Police van runs over protesters; PNP orders probe)
A video of the van running over protesters went viral. Asked in Beijing to comment on it, President Rodrigo Duterte said he's not about to pass the blame on anyone yet.
The IP groups threw bottles, paint bombs, and rocks in retaliation. Among those injured was Elago, who sustained a minor wound on her left knee.
“Congress must not allow such fascistic actions of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prosper under the new administration, particularly against the marginalized sector of our society like the national minorities,” said the Makabayan bloc in their resolution.
The lawmakers named Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police vehicle who they said used the mobile car as a “battering ram.”
At least 9 policemen, including Kho, Manila Police District (MPD) Deputy Director for Operations Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedroso, and MPD station 5 commander Superintendent Albert Barot, have already been relieved as the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group investigates the incident.
“The action of the police officer, which was well documented by the media, was clearly premeditated and not only aimed to maim the protestors but even to kill, as he showed no regard to the lives of the people mowed down by the police car,” said the Makabayan bloc.
Photo by Rob Reyes
They argued that there is an “urgent need” for the House of Representatives to condemn “such blatant violation” of people’s constitutionally mandated right to peaceably assembly and air their grievances.
Their resolution further read: “Now therefore be it resolved, that the House of Representatives condemn the October 19, 2016 violent dispersal of national minorities and their supporters holding a peaceful protest at the US Embassy in Manila, and, as a consequence thereof, an immediate investigation, in aid of legislation, be conducted by the House Committee on Human Rights, with the end view of crafting more measures protecting the interests of marginalized groups exercising their right to peaceably assemble and air their grievances, like the national minorities, and penalizing state security and police forces who violate the same.”
Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chairperson Terry Ridon also condemned the US Embassy protest clash on October 20.
"Among the rights of our citizens in public spaces include the right to protest without violence from state security forces. This was violated when the Manila Police District violently dispersed protesting indigenous peoples in front of the U.S Embassy, said Ridon on the sidelines of the United Nations Habitat 3 Conferece in Quito, Ecuador.
Ridon is part of the Philippine delegation led by Vice President Leni Robredo.
"This is not the kind of police that the President has repeatedly promised to stake the presidency and his life for," he added.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, in a statement read by the PNP’s spokesman, also expressed concern over the clash but at the same time said the PNP will “look into this squarely and deal with it decisively.”
Dela Rosa is currently in China with the President.
Read the full text of HR Number 487 below: