‘We were provoked’ – cops at US Embassy
MANILA — Some 50 policemen and protesters were hurt on Wednesday, after they clashed in front of the US Embassy in Manila, during a demonstration supporting President Duterte’s independent foreign policy.
Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, deputy director for operations of the Manila Police District, said 40 cops were wounded after militants “provoked” them into a physical confrontation at the protest site.
The participants included Moros and Lumads from Mindanao.
Jerome Succor, head of the Sandugo, one of the groups that participated in the protest, said 15 of their members were rushed to the Philippine General Hospital after the encounter.
He added that 13 more members – nine men and four women – were arrested and brought to the MPD’s general assignment section.
Succor said they have received information that the 13 would be charged with vandalism, malicious mischief, resisting arrest, direct assault, and illegal assembly.
Pedrozo said that aside from hitting cops, the protesters also destroyed four police mobile cars.
The police and the protesters had different accounts of what happened.
The militants’ march started about 10 a.m.
In a media advisory sent October 18, the day Duterte left for China, the group said “thousands of Moro and indigenous people will march to the US Embassy…from Kalaw corner Taft to Roxas Boulevard as they support Duterte’s independent foreign policy.”
“Tribal folks will wear their traditional attire as they will destroy a mock US flag using their traditional weapons before burning the flag,” the advisory read.
Senior Superintendent Pedrozo said the police observed maximum tolerance for the protesters but the militants were “unruly” and “violent” and they “provoked the cops.”
The police said the protesters pushed and physically hurt the cops officially stationed there in an effort to go near the embassy walls. Pedrozo pegged the number of militants at 700.
“This was the first time they were able to go near the embassy walls. That alone will show you that maximum tolerance was enforced,” he said.
“But getting near the embassy was not enough for them,” said Pedrozo. “They sprayed the walls with graffiti, and painted police uniform. Why did they have to paint the uniform?”
A scuffle eventually ensued. The militants were hit with wooden sticks. Police drove a van back and forth, and used water canons to disperse them.
Cops and protesters ended up hitting each other. The melee ended about 2 p.m. at the MPD headquarters.
Succor said that during the march, protesters were able to go past traditionally stationed cops at the US Embassy.
“Nagtulakan kami (We pushed each other). There was resistance as cops prevented us from going near the embassy but we were not hurt,” Succor said.
When they got close the embassy gates and walls, they vandalized its walls by painting graffiti. They also sprayed paint on the cops’ uniforms.
“We wanted to show defiance against the United States government domination in the Philippines. This is defiance against EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) and their security measures in the country,” Succor told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
EDCA refers to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines as a way to counter China’s illegal occupation of Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea.
Succor said they had two speakers left before ending the program when additional police forces arrived at the area. Then, a “violent dispersal” ensued, he said.
Succor estimated rally participants at 3,000. “Tear gas and water canons were used against us. Police also drove its car back and forth to disperse us,” he said.
In a statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines “strongly condemned the violent dispersal of the demonstration.”
“Today’s violent dispersal follows a similar violent dispersal yesterday in front of Camp Aguinaldo, the national headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the statement said.
CPP said 29 were arrested during the rally at the US Embassy. Senior Superintendent Pedrozo of the Manila Police said 15 were arrested. Succor of Sandugo said only 13 of their members were detained. SFM
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