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Lawmakers condemn violence, seek probe

protesters clash with police

Police and protesters clash during a violent protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. A Philippine police van rammed into protesters, leaving several bloodied, as an anti-U.S. rally turned violent Wednesday at the embassy in Manila. AP

Several senators and opposition congressmen on Thursday denounced the police dispersal of the anti-US protest outside the US Embassy in Manila and called on the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for a full investigation.

Some senators condemned the “ruthless,” “indefensible,” and “excessive” use of force by the police in ramming protesters in the most violent dispersal of a protest rally yet seen under President Duterte.

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“There is an excessive use of force,” Sen. Richard Gordon said. “You don’t run people down with your vehicle even if they are already hitting you … You’re in authority. You are there to protect civilians, you are not there to harm them.”

Up to 50 protesters, among them from indigenous peoples communities, were injured in the violent dispersal on Wednesday, a first under Mr. Duterte, who had earlier expressed unprecedented openness toward protest actions.

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Senate inquiry?

Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee and the committee on justice and human rights, said the Senate would initiate a legislative inquiry if the PNP failed to bring its own personnel to justice.

Sen. Grace Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 210 yesterday to craft “measures to ensure compliance with the rules of engagement of the PNP, deter the use of excessive force during public assemblies and ensure accountability.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said no less than the PNP chief should investigate the incident, even as “his call does not mean he is presuming guilt on any party.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon and Sen. Francis Pangilinan both said the CHR should step in. Drilon called the incident “brutal” and violated the maximum tolerance rule; Pangilinan said the dispersal was “horrifying” and a clear display of “police brutality,” citing the similarity between the police stance toward protesters and their manner of dealing with suspects in the war on drugs.

At the House of Representatives, several congressmen also denounced the police dispersal.

‘Chilling effect’

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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the police action sent “a chilling effect as it can continue to escalate as the police are emboldened by the incessant exhortation of President Duterte to the members of the PNP to kill perceived lawbreakers when necessary.”

Makabayan lawmakers filed a resolution seeking a congressional inquiry and said the “fascistic action” of the police should not be allowed to prosper under Mr. Duterte.

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TAGS: Anti-US protest, CHR, Commission on Human Rights, police dispersal, President Duterte, Protest rally, Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Richard Gordon, US Embassy
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