Water cannon, ‘Katy Perry’ vs Apec protests
The closing day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit hosted by the country saw violent confrontations between the police and protesters that sent at least nine people to the hospital.
The Philippine National Police on Thursday also unleashed its “secret weapon” to drown out the protesters’ chants: Pop music on loudspeakers, including hits by Katy Perry, Dolly Parton and the Bee Gees. Some of the policemen tapped their batons against their shields in time with the music.
The PNP had used the tactic against past rallies, like those staged at the gates of its general headquarters in Camp Crame.
As Apec leaders gathered for the second day at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City, a tense standoff occurred just outside the Redemptorist Church compound in Baclaran, Parañaque City, around 8 a.m., followed two hours later by a clash at the Buendia-Roxas Boulevard intersection in Pasay.
Using truncheons, shields and water cannon, the police prevented some 2,500 marchers from getting anywhere near PICC.
In Baclaran, some 600 protesters who included “lumad” or indigenous peoples from Mindanao were prevented from leaving the church compound, where they had been encamped since last week. Backed by militant groups, the lumad arrived in the capital last month for a protest caravan denouncing large-scale mining operations and alleged military atrocities in their ancestral lands.
“We are only asserting our right to air our grievances, so I don’t understand why they are not letting us through,” said Kerlan Fanagel, chair of Pasaka, a confederation of lumad organizations in Southern Mindanao. “Resist imperialist plunder and militarization in Mindanao! Apec hands off our lands!” read one streamer hoisted by the redshirted protesters.
Senior Supt. Ariel Andrade, the Parañaque police chief, said that while the lumad may air their grievances at the churchyard, they did not have a permit to hold a rally elsewhere. “If the church allows it, then they can do it since that’s a private matter,” he said.
As the police played loud music from speakers directed at the lumad rally, the scuffle resulted in minor injuries for at least 15 protesters, according to Fanagel.
In Pasay City, two fire trucks deployed by antiriot forces hosed down the frontliners of another anti-Apec march coming from Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said 20 protesters sustained injuries, five of them brought to Philippine General Hospital for treatment.
Like in Baclaran, the police played loud music to disrupt the protesters’ program, which ended with the burning of a “vulture” effigy symbolizing what Bayan called “the predatory character of Apec which picks the flesh off the developing countries.”
The PNP said four rookie policemen (three from Bulacan province and one from Cagayan) sustained minor injuries in the Pasay rally. PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez, who visited the four officers at the hospital, said charges would be filed against the protesters who “hurt my men,” referring to PO1s Mark Andrew de la Cruz, Rolando Surla, Ruwel John Felipe and Michael Angeles.
After the protesters dispersed, Marquez went to see the teams still in position at the Buendia area, shaking their hands in gratitude and noting their “very high morale.”
Interior Secretary Senen Sarmiento, meanwhile, treated them to some ice cream “as a way of thanking them.”
Those who were brought in from the provinces as augmentation forces for Apec would be given an extra day to “tour” the capital. “Some of them had requested trips to Manila Zoo,” Sarmiento said. With reports from Julie Aurelio and AFP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.