MANILA, Philippines—The Quezon City Police District said Tuesday it will look into the possibility of filing charges against leaders of militant groups involved in clashes with police officers last Monday.
Chief Superintendent Richard Albano, QCPD director, issued the statement following the clash between anti-riot police and militants on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City a few hours before President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa.
Tension rose past noon Monday after protesters coming from the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue destroyed the metal dividers in an attempt to occupy the northbound lane, which was declared off-limits.
The protesters barged into the other lane but sprinted back to the southbound lane when police in full riot gears pushed them away.
At the height of the clash, 22 police officers were wounded, while Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said at least 41 from their side were hurt.
While more protesters may have been injured from the incident, Albano quoted the Commission on Human (CHR) rights as saying that it was the militants who started the clash.
“This is the first time that I heard CHR chairman Etta Rosales as saying that militants started it. It is their fault. This is where you will see the discipline of our police officers in enforcing maximum tolerance [in dealing with militants]. There are many video clips to prove that,” Albano told reporters in Filipino.
Ten people were arrested.
He said roughly 5,000 militants joined SONA-related protests.
Albano earlier said that 10 protesters were arrested Monday and are facing charges for violation of Batas Pambansa 880 which includes illegal assembly, serious physical injury, damage to government property, and direct assault, among others.
“Militant leaders should be held responsible for the actions of their men, just as how we are held responsible for our subordinates,” Albano said.
For his part, Reyes called on the CHR to conduct an “honest” investigation “instead of defending the PNP,” he said.
“Video footage will show that that there was a peaceful stand off before the police started attacking the protesters,” Reyes argued.
Meanwhile, Albano also said QCPD will look into possible reasons as to why militants involved in clashes with police officers are released most of the time for further investigation.
“Even though we are not lawyers, we were still able to gather evidences we need for cases like this. However, involved persons are being released for further investigation. With this, we may also have shortcomings that we need to study, or seminars that we can go through for us to be able to really pursue cases like this,” he said in Filipino.
He said this issue may be the reason violent incidents always happen during SONA rallies.