Thursday, April 14, 2005

My Version of the Dispersal

the shirt still reeks of blood. the stains have formed shadows in the darkness of the cloth -- reminders that justice does not exist, logic does not exist, reason does not exist in this pitiful country manned by pitiless police.

one week has passed since that confounding day. i had no sleep that day -- a mistake borne of drinking brewed coffee at eight in the evening. two cups of strong coffee laced with white sweetness were not obvious signs of the red blood that would flow out of the top of my head at midday the next day.

there was no premonition whatsoever. i had no idea that i had to be brave that day, that i would need to stand up to my principles, and at the same time, realize that i did not fear being soaked in blood.

as the police bashed me with their meter-long rattan truncheons, i was in a meditative state. i'd describe that state as Gandhi-esque, since no anger was welling up inside me as the police hurt me -- only that surreality that a member of the clergy was down on the ground with his forehead bleeding, and all the while, his cries were being drowned by the police in that ornate orchestra of meter-long rattan truncheons falling like lead out of the sky.

why would i be angry at the police? i was expecting them to act as such -- wild animals out of their cages, rented hooligans donning police uniforms.

my parents taught me to have respect for authority, but i never saw the police as an institution worthy of respect. i have always seen the police with fearful eyes, since i saw them as whimsical men given the right to carry guns.

the police -- a dangerous institution tasked with the authority to protect the State. but in this country, where the State commits more violations against its citizens than criminals, the police is an instrument of suppression, of pacification -- never an instrument of peace, of progress, of development.

and whatever the police say about their role in community-building, i will never believe. it is a time-honored tradition to always take the statements of the State, especially of the police, with a grain of salt.

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pardon my memory, especially after being hit on the head several times by the police, but i don't remember a newsman from the inquirer covering the scene.

anyway, here's their report, with my annotations --

Activists, cops clash in rally; 13 hurt
April 07, 2005
Updated 10:32pm (Mla time)
Inquirer News Service

ACTIVISTS protesting alleged political repression clashed with police yesterday after being prevented from airing their views at a meeting of world parliamentarians, leaving at least 13 people injured.

>>WHY USE "ALLEGED"? THE ACTIVISTS WERE CLEARLY PROTESTING AGAINST POLITICAL REPRESSION AS SEEN FROM THEIR ISSUED STATEMENTS, PLACARDS, AND STREAMERS. IS THE USE OF THE WORD "ALLEGED" A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO WATER DOWN THE PROTEST?

Carrying placards reading "Defend Civil Liberties" and "Stop Killing Journalists," hundreds of protesters tried to push their way toward the Philippine International Convention Center, where a conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was in progress, but were repelled by riot police. The rally was called to protest a spate of killings of activists and journalists in the country.

>>THE PROTESTERS WERE NOT TRYING TO PUSH THEIR WAY TOWARD THE PHILIPPINE INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTER. THE PROTESTERS WERE TRYING TO HOLD A PROGRAM INFRONT OF THE MALATE CATHOLIC CHURCH. IF THEY WERE TRYING TO REACH THE CONVENTION CENTER WHERE THE CONFERENCE WAS BEING HELD, THEY WOULD HAVE POSITIONED THEMSELVES ALONG ROXAS BOULEVARD, WHERE THE CONVENTION CENTER WAS MORE ACCESSIBLE. ANOTHER THING -- SINCE THERE WAS NO PERMIT FOR THE RALLY, IT WAS CLEAR AMONG THE LEADERS OF THE PROTEST THAT THEY WERE TO HOLD THEIR PROGRAM AT MALATE CATHOLIC CHURCH. THERE WAS NO ACT TO "PUSH THEIR WAY" TO THE CONVENTION CENTER.

After regrouping at Rajah Sulayman plaza, the rallyists entered the yard of Our Lady of Remedies Church in Malate, prompting baton-wielding police to force them out. Police said the protesters failed to get a permit for the rally.

>>THE PROTESTERS, UPON APPROVAL OF A PRIEST AT THE MALATE CATHOLIC CHURCH, WERE ALLOWED TO HOLD THE PROGRAM IN THE COMPOUND. IT WAS CLEAR TO THE POLICE THAT THE PROTESTERS COULD NOT BE FORCED OUT SINCE THE LATTER WERE NOT VIOLATING ANY LAW.

At least two priests, including one who was hit by a police baton and whose face was bloodied, were seen being yanked away by police and put into a van as other protesters tried unsuccessfully to pull them away from the officers.

Western Police District General Assignments Section chief Arturo Paglinawan said charges of resisting arrest, obstruction and rallying without a permit would be filed against Fr. Allan Jose Arcebuche, OSM, assistant parish priest of the Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish in Sta. Ana, Manila; church layman Edwin Egar, and Carmelite seminarian Benedicto Zaragosa.

Paglinawan said a scuffle ensued, resulting in the injury of at least two policemen and 11 militants.

But Zaragosa said that they were within the vicinity of the church when police arrested them.

"We were just holding streamers peacefully," he told reporters, adding that they were rallying against political repression and violence against members of the clergy.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino said Arcebuche, head of the militant group Promotion for Church People's Response, which had been tagged by the military as a communist front, was manhandled while trying to protect other activists seeking refuge inside the church.

"They are suppressing the voices of the people. They are preventing us from rallying," said Renato Reyes, secretary general of the militant group Bayan.

"That is not democracy, that is political repression."

Reyes accused police of arresting the priests and allegedly assaulting several nuns who joined the protest.

Police had been on heightened alert to protect hundreds of legislators attending the six-day IPU convention nearby, which ends today.

WPD Director Chief Supt. Pedro Bulaong, however, maintained that the arrested churchmen had violently resisted the police.

"We have footage that they actually grabbed police shields and hit some of our men with these," he said.

>>MEDIAMEN ALSO CAUGHT IN THE ACT POLICE HITTING THE UNARMED PROTESTERS. THESE SENSELESS ACTS OF VIOLENCE WERE RECORDED ON TAPE AND ON FILM.

Countered Casino: "It was overkill. It blatantly showed that the present administration does not tolerate even peaceful and legitimate assembly and demonstrations."

He added that the dispersal was unprovoked and was "a mockery of the Philippines hosting the 112th IPU Assembly where civil, political and human rights are major concerns."

>>ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOK-OUT. SOME NEWS ITEMS ARE WRITTEN WITH A LITERARY FLAVOR IN MIND.

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here's my article. i was there during the dispersal. i was even hurt. =(

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Protest vs State Terror Violently Dispersed

The police dispersed last April 7 some 6,000 demonstrators in Manila who were protesting against state terrorism. The dispersal certainly drove home the rallyists’ point. Among the 10 persons injured were two priests and three members of media, including this reporter.

BY RONALD ESCANLAR
Bulatlat

Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos of the Health Alliance for Demcoracy (HEAD) reported that 10 persons were hurt when police violently dispersed a 6,000-strong demonstration in front of the Malate Catholic church in Manila last April 7. Seven of them were treated at the Ospital ng Maynila while the remaining three were taken to the Philippine General Hospital. Nine others sustained minor injuries.

The protest action coincided with the 112th General Assembly of International Parliamentary Union being held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. The protesters wanted to bring to the IPU’s attention the unabated killing of activists in the country.

Media not spared

This reporter suffered a one-and-a-half inch head wound while trying to help Fr. Benedicto Zaragosa, who lay prone on the ground. Zaragosa's forehead bled profusely as riot policemen bore on him with their meter-long rattan truncheons.

This reporter was pulled from the scuffle together with the bleeding priest. After shouting "Media ako! Media ako!" the police let go of this reporter and instead focused their attention on the bleeding priest.

This reporter saw the police hauling the bloodied priest like a hog away from the scuffle. Later, while being treated at the Ospital ng Maynila, this reporter saw the police bring Fathers Allan Jose Arcebuche and Zaragosa and Edwin Egar in for treatment.

Meanwhile, the People’s Journal Tonight reported that its photographer, Roger Talan, suffered injuries in the arm during the scuffle.

The other media member hurt in the dispersal was Emil Mercado, 30, of Tudla MultiMedia Network who suffered a one-cm cut on the head and one of those taken to the Ospital ng Maynila.

Deliberate

In his report, Nisperos noted that most of those injured suffered head wounds which show "deliberate intent to cause harm or injury." This, he said, is very far from the "maximum tolerance" policy claimed by the government.

Nisperos also said that the cuts, swelling and bruises were blunt injuries brought about by truncheon beating.

Nisperos scored how the injured priests were taken first to the Western Police District (WPD) headquarters before being taken to the hospital for treatment.

"Tahasang paglabag po ito sa kanyang karapatan. Kung may doctor man sa WPD gaya ng sinasabi ng mga pulis, ang doctor na ito ay lumabag sa medical code of ethics (This is a deliberate violation of his rights. If ever there was a doctor at the WPD, the doctor did not follow the medical code of ethics)," he said.

No permit, no rally policy

According to organizers, the protest was supposed to be held at the adjacent Raha Sulaiman Park but police authorities, who had a ready platoon of riot policemen and a medium-sized fire truck, prevented protesters from converging at the park.

Officers from the WPD maintained that the protesters had no permit to rally.

Two legislators were present among the protesters - Bayan Muna (people first) Party-list Rep. Teddy CasiƱo and Anakpawis (toiling masses) Party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran.

A priest from the nearby Malate Catholic Church eventually allowed the protesters to hold their program at the church's compound.

The platoon-sized riot police have by then been augmented by another platoon of riot policemen from the Northern Police District.

Sidewalk debate

Near noon, the protesters lined up on the sidewalk in front of the church bearing placards that read "Stop Killing Activists." At the same time, cultural activists from the group Buklod Sining performed at the adjacent church gate.

Riot policemen were ordered to form a single row before the protesters on the sidewalk, occupying the middle of Marcelo H. del Pilar Street.

A debate ensued when police officers argued that the sidewalk was not part of the church's grounds, to which leaders of the protest, including the Malate Church priest who had allowed the holding of a program on the church's grounds, contended that the sidewalk was part of the church compound.

As the debate raged, a police officer, whose nametag read “Armazona,” ordered the riot policemen to occupy the end of the sidewalk that led to Remedios Circle, in effect surrounding the protesters.

Push and pull

The riot policeman at the end of the line started pushing the protesters back, which started the first wave of violence.

Riot policemen, armed with meter-long rattan truncheons and protected with helmets and shields, pushed on and struck the protesters who held onto their placards, which some riot policemen were pulling away.

There was a lull for a few seconds when a lady officer and some leaders of the protesters intervened. However, the scuffle resumed when a riot policeman began to steal a placard from a protester.

Riot policemen did not stop until they had the protesters inside the church compound, in the process inflicting head wounds on members of the clergy, church workers, and media people.

Among those arrested were Father Arcebuche, OSM, assistant parish priest of the Our Lady of the Abandoned in Sta. Ana, Manila; Egar, a member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP); and Carmelite seminarian Zaragosa.

Obvious link

"The first quarter of 2005 alone saw 29 innocent lives snuffed out in the most brutal and treacherous manner," said the unity statement of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Women's Party distributed during the protest.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), meanwhile, recently released a report calling on the Philippine government to act on the murder of journalists, which now stand at 66 deaths since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

The still unsolved murder of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) priest Father William Tadena, a supporter of the Hacienda Luisita strike, was also one of the issues carried during the protest. Tadena was slain in an ambush on March 13 in La Paz, Tarlac.

In a statement, militant group Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) said the protest was timed to coincide with the IPU to call "international attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the country." Bulatlat

© 2004 Bulatlat ¦ Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.

1 comment:

::dear said...

"Promise me, son, not to do the things I've done --
Walk away from trouble if you can.
It won't mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek
I hope you're old enough to understand,
Son, you don't have to fight to be a man."

---------------

"I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you've done
I walk away from trouble when I can
Now please don't think I'm weak, I didn't turn the other cheek,
And papa, I should hope you understand --
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man".
-COWARD OF THE COUNTY (kenny rogers)

---------------
you're the bravest man i've ever known.. and i love you for that..

but i don't wanna see you hurt..