DAVAO CITY —- Senators who led a Senate inquiry here over a violent dispersal of farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City last week said police forces should not have brought firearms during the bloody operation.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said the police are prohibited to use firearms during dispersal, as contained in section 13 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985.
Cayetano said the use of firearms in dispersal of protest actions was prohibited to avoid violent incidents.
“If the protesters have rocks, you only use shields and batons. Why do you use firearms during dispersal? If you have firearms you will use it because you are also wounded, you are also mad. That’s why we regulate the police not to use firearms (during dispersals),” said Cayetano.
He said a video shows that the protesters were running and the “security team” ran after and shoot at them.
Also present during the Senate inquiry held at the University of Southeastern Philippines here was Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, who said the crisis committee which she headed wrote to the Commission on Elections to ask “for guidance” by the soldiers and the police to bring back law and order.
She said the Comelec granted their request but it the dispersal was a “police action”.
On Friday, she said they met with the committee where she was told that the number of protesters was still around “2,000”.
“I remember saying na ‘marami pa yan’ (that is still too many),” said Mendoza. She said she was then told that “Mam, this is a police action.”
“So we prayed after that, pero I reminded na marami pa yung 2,000 na raliyista (But I reminded them that 2,000 is still a big number of rallyists),” she said.
“The position stays that we have to open the national highway, as to when, that is already a police action. Kasi wala naman kaming law enforcement capability to determine kung may threat,” she said.
Police Chief Superintendent Noel Armilla of Police Regional Office 12 said he ordered North Cotabato police provincial director, Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum “to clear the highway” on March 31, the first day of the barricade.
He said the clearing operations took three more days since negotiations between the protesters and the provincial government was still ongoing. Tagum said they ordered the dispersal around 10:00 am on Friday, April 1 after “all negotiations were exhausted”.
Cayetano asked if Tagum made sure that the police were not armed. Tagum said the Civil Disturbance Management Unit “have no firearms”.
However, he said, there were also members of the security team, present at a distance from the protesters, who were armed.
Tagum showed a drone video showing a policeman being beaten by a protester. The police also said that carrying of firearm is allowed as security measure “of the unarmed CDM”.
But, Cayetano said the law “does not distinguish CDM units.”
“Kung walang baril dun hindi nangyari yung may namatay at may naputukan (If there were no guns used, no one would have died or have suffered from gunshot),” said Cayetano.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said he understand that Tagum “was trying to justify it as saving the life of his comrade… pero it’s wrong (but it’s wrong).”
“But that’s our point. In other countries they come back and save their (colleagues), they don’t kill the protesters,” he said.
In Manila, Philippine National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez ordered the removal of Senior Supt. Tagum from his post as provincial police director, pending the results of its own investigation.
Earlier, human rights group Karapatan, which was part of the National Fact Finding and Humanitarian Mission, confirmed that two died in the police’s dispersal including bystander, Enrico Fabligar and farmer, Darwin Sulang.
The group said 10 individuals sustained gunshot wounds and were brought to the hospital. (davaotoday.com)