Militant farmers’ group clashes with police on Commonwealth AvenueBy Jamie Marie Elona
MANILA, Philippines— Clashes erupted along the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue after protesters tried to breach the police line by taking the opposite lane of the road where police have lined up earlier Monday to block rally groups from going beyond Ever Gotesco Mall.
Senior Superintendent Joel Pagdilao of Quezon City Police District said the ralliers entered the rerouting area at the northbound lane and transferred the southbound lane where vehicles are detoured in a counterflow in connection with President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address scheduled at 4 p.m.
Pagdilao said protesters were only allowed at the northbound lane, prompting police officers clad in full anti-riot gears to push them away from the lane.
Protesters threw rocks at police officers, who in return, pushed and hit them with their truncheons.
Philippine National Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr., said all 6,000 police officers specifically deployed to maintain security around the Batasang Pambansa Complex are under strict orders to uphold respect for civil rights to peaceably assemble, and to extend assistance to all persons participating in Sona-related activities.
“Security personnel have been properly briefed of their individual role and unit mission with emphasis on the Police Operational Procedures and Human Rights. They are properly guided to strictly observe the policy of maximum tolerance and restraint in dealing with any situation,” he said, adding that “maximum tolerance and restraint” will be strictly observed when a need for police action arises.
Ground commanders, Cerbo said, were also instructed to maintain communication with protest leaders and organizers to preclude any possible miscommunication between the two parties.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu) said Aquino is the “brains behind the fresh moves for Charter Change.”
“As a true haciendero, Aquino is the number one proponent of the 100-percent foreign ownership of lands and utilities, and the removal of the protectionist provisions of the constitution,” KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said.
Ulwu chairman Lito Bais said it has been three months since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the distribution of the Hacienda Luisita, “but all we see are the obvious political maneuvers by the President’s family and the DAR [Department of Agrarian Reform] to circumvent the Supreme Court descision.”
In Aquino’s Sona, Bais said he may “desperately” project himself as pro-agrarian reform, but will not mention anything about the land distribution.