‘Dismantled MMDA signs used to hurt us’By Julie M. Aurelio, Miko Morelos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Protesters tore down fences and road signs worth P105,000 and used it against the police at a violent showdown outside Congress as President Benigno Aquino III delivered his annual State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
That was what Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino told reporters Tuesday, adding that it would be impossible for them to hold the protesters accountable as tracking them down would be difficult.
Traffic engineering center head Neomie Recio said 20 road signs were torn down and used to hit riot policemen and government vehicles. Some 30 MMDA fences were also destroyed.
More than 20 policemen and scores of civilians, including members of the media, were hurt when protesters of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan contingent breached the police blockade set up on Commonwealth Avenue.
Antiriot policemen pushed back the rallyists to Ever Gotesco mall, leaving many hurt in the scuffle.
Tolentino said traffic cones and concrete barriers were also damaged during the clash on Commonwealth Avenue.
The MMDA chair lamented the outcome of the protest, claiming that the groups never attended a meeting with authorities last week before the Sona.
He said the protesters insisted on taking their mass action near the Batasang Pambansa, but the MMDA chair said the rallies have always been held near St. Peter’s Church along the avenue.
Tolentina said he doubted whether the Commission on Human Rights, which was investigating the incident, would take into account the damage to government property in its assessment report.
“I think it’s beyond the commission’s scope,” he said. “We will just repair what was destroyed.”
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Tuesday maintained that it exercised maximum tolerance during the heated protests.
QCPD director Chief Superintendent Mario dela Vega said authorities chose not to use fire trucks to hose down the protesters.
The leaders who could face charges include Renato Reyes Jr. of Bayan, George San Mateo of Piston, Cherry Clemente of Migrante, Tinay Palabay of Karapatan, Liza Maza of Gabriela, Gloria Arellano of Kadamay and Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, among others.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, however, said militant groups are also preparing to file cases against the police.
“Someone has to take responsibility for such open defiance and arrogance, ignoring the mandate of the law that the rally was legal and should not have been blocked by law enforcers themselves, not to mention what appears to be excessive and unnecessary use of force,” he said.