Moro, lumad leaders recall violent US Embassy dispersal | Inquirer News

Moro, lumad leaders recall violent US Embassy dispersal

/ 07:59 PM October 26, 2016

Josephine Pagalan, 36, of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, went all the way to Manila to protest against militarization in Lianga town.

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Forced to flee their community after three lumad leaders were killed, she did not expect that she would be tear-gassed in the streets of Manila.

Pagalan, an alternative school para-teacher under the Tribal Filipino Program for Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), was among the 50 people hurt during the violent dispersal at the United States Embassy last October 19 where a police vehicle rammed dozens of protesters.

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“Ngayon ko lang naranasan yung pagputok ng tear gas kung [gaano kasakit ang] tear gas…kung ano man yung dinanas namin doon sa aming lugar na pagmi-militarize, pambubugbog, ganito rin pala sa kamaynilaan. Mas grabe din kasi naranasan namin yung tear gas,” she said during INQ&A on Tuesday.

(This is the first time that I experienced being tear-gassed, how painful it is to be exposed to tear gas…whatever we experienced in our town—the militarization and the beatings—it’s the same apparently here in Metro Manila. It is even worse because we were tear-gassed.)

Jerome Succor Aba, a co-convenor of the Moro and indigenous people alliance Sandugo, said he was trying to talk to Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police mobile, when the police started using tear gas on them.

He said the two-hour program at the embassy was about to end when he saw Kho hitting media men, who were on top of the mobile, with a stick.

Aba told Kho that he should just let them be since they were about to leave. Kho refused to listen and instead went inside the mobile. Aba then saw smoke, which he thought was from the vehicle.

He was surprised when his eyes started to sting from the tear gas.

In the middle of the chaos, Kho started driving the vehicle back and forth, ramming and mowing over people in the process.

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READ: Police deny running over protesters at US Embassy 

Aba said he was in shock for five seconds as the vehicle started hitting his fellow protesters.

He said the violent dispersal happened after Manila Police District (MPD) official Col. Marcelino Pedroso arrived at the rally site and ordered to disperse the crowd.

Both Aba and Pagalan claimed that other policeman spoke out and explained that there was already a prior agreement allowing the protesters to finish the program and leave. But such calls were ignored.

Pagalan was standing beside a 61-year-old Mamanwa woman and fellow Sandugo convener Piya Macliing Malayao, 27, when Kho started driving in reverse. The old woman was the first to fall.

The vehicle hit Pagalan and Malayao as it accelerated forward. Pagalan said they have not even been able to stand back up when the vehicle hit Malayao again.

Both the old woman and Malayao, whose feet were seriously injured, are still in the hospital.

Another young woman named Nicole was almost ran over by the vehicle. She is also in the hospital and will be needing a series of procedures to address her facial injuries.

Pagalan, who was also hit by tear gas, said she made sure Malayao was safe before running from the police. Another woman gave her water to help wash away the chemicals from her eyes.

She said she told the others not to go into their jeepneys since the police were also targeting the vehicles. One video showed a young jeepney driver being beaten up by the police.

Aba, who is Muslim, said the group marched to the US Embassy to protest American intervention in Mindanao and the rest of the country.

They are part of the large group of Moro and indigenous peoples joining a people’s caravan in Metro Manila, seeking to promote the concerns of minority groups.

Aba said much of the violence in the South can be attributed to the US and its “development aggression.”

He said Muslims like them are also branded as terrorists.

He said they have the same objective as President Rodrigo Duterte, which is “to end US intervention and assert independent foreign policy.”

However, he said the police has allegedly taken the side of the US by hurting the protesters.

Two days after the violent dispersal, the group went to Mendiola and ended up delivering a letter for Duterte, who was abroad at the time.. Their leaders were allowed to enter Malacañang and turn over a letter requesting for an independent investigation on the incident.

Aba and Pagalan belied comments that they were paid to protest or are out to tarnish the image of the government.

“Naranasan namin ang iba-ibang porma ng paglabag sa aming karapatan (We have experienced different kinds of human rights violations),” Pagalan said.

She said her people are often in evacuation centers because mining companies want to take over their natural resources.

“Dahil sa linabanan ito ng mga katutubo, dahil nanindigan kami para sa lupa, dahil ang lupa ay buhay namin kaya pinatay yung aming mga lider (Because the tribes opposed it, because we are fighting for our land, because our land is our life, that is why our leaders are being killed),” she said.

Aba, on the other hand, said the Moro people has long been against foreign intervention, from the Spanish colonization to the US occupation.

He said they only want an independent foreign policy and the protection of their ancestral lands.

“Hindi kami bayaran. Alam namin ang aming pinaglalaban. Ito ay pinaglalaban ng aming mga ninuno,” he said.

(We are not being paid. We know what we are fighting for. We are fighting for the same things as that of our ancestors.)

Pagalan said they would not travel far if not for the human rights violations they experienced in their communities.

“Yung karanasan namin ang nagtulak sa amin para pagpatuloy labanan ito,” she said.

(It is our experiences that have pushed us to continue this fight.)

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TAGS: lumad, Moro, rally dispersal, US Embassy, Violence
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