Anti-Marcos rally inside CHR compound turns violent amid dispersal by police
MANILA, Philippines — An anti-Marcos demonstration turned violent on Wednesday as police dispersed their ranks at a “freedom park” within the compound of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
According to the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), the rallyists were attempting to proceed to Batasang Pambansa where Congress, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers, would later proclaim Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the winner of the May 2022 presidential race.
The protesters included human rights advocates who denounced the atrocities of martial rule, which was declared by Marcos Jr.’s father and namesake, Ferdinand Sr. on September 21, 1972. The Philippines was under martial law until Ferdinand Sr.’s administration was toppled by a bloodless uprising of Filipinos, who condemned the regime’s massive rights abuses and corruption, in 1986.
Police said an estimated 200 demonstrators were at Liwasang Diokno within the CHR compound in Diliman, Quezon City, where they are allowed to stage their activity since it is a freedom park or an area where political gatherings, rallies, and demonstrations may be held even without government permits.
But the NCRPO claimed the rallyists tried to go outside Liwasang Diokno purportedly to advance towards Batasang Pambansa. The NCRPO also claimed that “a brief scuffle ensued when a group of protesters who were denied passage along Commonwealth Avenue attacked police contingents.”
“Accordingly, protesters tried to kick and waggle the shields of the police force,” the police further claimed.
This incident, the NCRPO said, prompted firemen to bombard the protesters with water.
“Police officers did not retaliate from the violent actions of the rallyists. Unfortunately, the broken shields which are made out of plastic may have caused injury to anybody who has come in contact with it if applied with considerable force,” the police said.
The Philippine National Police backed the NCRPO narrative. It said that some participants of the proclamation day protest were dispersed and water cannoned because they kicked the police’s riot shields and caused traffic along Commonwealth Avenue.
The PNP also said in a separate statement that police exercised maximum tolerance on the demonstrators.
“The PNP exercises maximum tolerance in every mass action where police intervention is necessary. Nirerespeto po namin ang freedom of expression nila (We respect their freedom of expression) but they went overboard,” it said.
But human rights group Karapatan denied the story of the police, asserting that it was a peaceful gathering. It condemned the violent dispersal of their colleagues “in strongest possible terms.”
Citing reports of its health marshals, Karapatan said the protestors were hit with truncheons and shields and that at least 10 people from their ranks were wounded.
“We will not take these violations sitting down, and in the face of the looming return of the forces of tyranny and fascism, all the more that we will protest and resist any and all attempts to unleash the horrors of Marcosian martial law and State repression,” the group said.
The CHR, for its part, said Wednesday that it has deployed investigators to probe the incident.
[READ] CHR reminder on the right to peaceful assembly: pic.twitter.com/OpNS2P09SD
— CHR Philippines (@chrgovph) May 25, 2022
It also expressed alarm over the methods used by the police in dispersing the protesters.
The CHR pointed out that using water cannons and carrying firearms during peaceful protests are prohibited under Batas Pambansa Blg. 880.
“CHR-National Capital Region and the Central Investigation Office have dispatched its lawyers and investigators early on in line with our mandate to monitor rallies and to investigate. The CHR-NCR lawyers explained to the police officers the intricacies of BP 880 urging them to practice maximum tolerance. In the same manner, they also talked with the leaders of the rallyists,” CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia said.
“To prevent a similar incident in consecutive rallies, the CHR will communicate with the PNP regarding its initial findings and recommendations,” she added.
The PNP, on the other hand, said it will work on a full report as it conducts a more thorough investigation of the matter.
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