Cop in van who rammed protesters did it before
The policeman at the center of an investigation of the violent dispersal of an anti-US rally who plowed into protesters with a van has been involved in a similar ramming incident six years ago, the Inquirer has learned.
Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said on Thursday he ordered an investigation after watching a video of the violent dispersal in China where he was accompanying President Duterte on a state visit.
The van driver, PO3 Franklin Kho, and eight officials of the Manila Police District (MPD), including operations chief Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo, were ordered relieved of their duties and placed under the administrative custody of the National Capital Region Police Office pending investigation of Wednesday’s violence.
The MPD chief, Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, said 40 Civil Disturbance Management Unit (CDMU) members were also under “restrictive custody.”
In a three-page affidavit, Kho, 49, who had received 23 decorations over his 15-year career, said he was trying to save himself and a colleague from the protesters who allegedly threatened to burn the van and was unaware he had hit protesters.
“What I knew at that moment was that my life was threatened by the protesters who were running amuck,” he said in Filipino.
Kho took a similar action using a police truck in December 2010 to dismantle a barricade put up by “kuliglig” (motorized rickshaw), drivers on Padre Burgos Street near City Hall, according to a source who had worked with him, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The drivers protested an order by then Mayor Alfredo Lim banning three-wheeled vehicles on the city’s main roads.
Kho ended the protest by ramming through the barricade. Television footage at the time showed the truck clearing the barricade “like a bulldozer,” but its driver then wasn’t identified.
MPD spokesperson Supt. Marissa Bruno has not responded to requests for comments on Kho’s action six years ago.
His action at Wednesday’s rally “shocked” his superiors, Coronel said.
“He panicked and lost his sense of judgment or discernment that’s why he acted that way and moved back and forth out of fear and for self-preservation,” Coronel told the Inquirer.
Kho was assigned as the driver of the van. He was not part of MPD’s civil disturbance management team.
“That’s why his officers were shocked because there was no order at all to do that. He said that in his mind, he thought the protesters would pull him out of the vehicle and hit him on the street,” Coronel said.
Maximum tolerance rule
Kho also was worried the PNP would charge any damage to the van to his pay, Coronel said.
Several dozen demonstrators and police were wounded in Wednesday’s clash, according to the PNP and the rally organizers.
Pedrozo told reporters the MPD enforced the maximum tolerance rule, saying his men were provoked by the paint-throwing protesters.—WITH REPORTS FROM JEROME ANING AND DEXTER CABALZA