The Iloilo Press Club (IPC), in a statement released on Monday, decried the use of “excessive force” and “unreasonable assault” by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team of the Iloilo City police against personnel of the radio station Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.
“The incident inside Aksyon Radyo is reminiscent of martial law raids on media outlets, which have no place in a civil and democratic society,” IPC president Francis Allan Angelo said.
The heavily armed SWAT team entered the station, frisked its employees at gunpoint and kicked a security guard. The abuse was caught on a closed-circuit television camera.
The policemen, trained on counterterrorism operations, were responding to reports of a clash between two groups of youth at a bar at the nearby Smallville entertainment complex, which is 200 meters from Aksyon Radyo station.
Senior Supt. Ruperto Floro, Iloilo City police director, said the team had received a report that members of one group sought refuge at the station.
Floro said the SWAT team went up the building and into the radio station as seven members of the group involved in the commotion were leaving the station.
“The SWAT members said they wanted to clear the station by checking if there were any of the group’s members left inside and if there was any existing threat,” Floro told the Inquirer.
But radio station employees said they were the ones who told police about the presence of the youth, at least two of them wounded, at the lobby of the station.
Despite identifying themselves as employees of the station, five of the radio station personnel and two security guards were ordered to take off their shirts because they were considered suspects.
The policemen also seized the employees’ mobile phones, searched their personal belongings and entered offices in the radio station, according to the station personnel.
Floro said, however, said that the policemen followed “standard operating procedures.” He said the Iloilo police are investigating the case and the SWAT members involved in it had been grounded.
But the IPC said the police action was “uncalled for and completely unnecessary.”
The management of the station is preparing administrative and criminal complaints against the policemen, according to station manager John Paul Tia.