QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Indigenous and Moro leaders recounted their experiences during the violent dispersal at the US Embassy on Wednesday.
Jerome Succor Aba of Suara Bangsamoro, and one of the convenors of the newly-formed tribal alliance Sandug called the dispersal “teroristic attack,” saying that the program was about to peacefully end until Col. Mareclino Pedrozo came and ordered the dispersal.
“We came here not to be mauled, or to be attacked with water cannons. We came here to protest US domination. They are the plunderers of both Lumad and Moro ancestral lands. They are the root cause of all the violence and poverty in our country,” Aba said.
Datu Jomorito Guaynon of Kalumbay, chairperson of Kalumbay expressed dismay over the conduct of the Manila police, which he said was comparable to the actions of paramilitary in their communities.
“We are dismayed with the actions of the police. We Lumad people in Mindanao thought that the police are our protectors from criminals. But their actions towards us were like criminals,” Guaynon said.
“We came here because we’re afraid of the paramilitary in the countryside. But what they did to us very much mirrored what illiterate, savage paramilitary in the countryside are. The Manila police and the paramilitary in our communities act the same,” Guaynon added.
Ampi Mangili, spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance said that he saw the reinforcements coming and overheard the policemen talking. Mangili recounted that he heard one of them say, “Kayang kaya natin ‘yang mga ‘yan” (We can take them all).
“People have been questioning our motives when we went there. What do you think of us indigenous peoples? Do we not have the right to speak about national issues? We feel the impact of US imperialism in the North. We were the first ones attacked by the Americans, they plundered our forests and minerals for a long time, almost a hundred years. Our community is now filled with open pit mines,” Mangili said.
Organizers claimed that the program was nearing its end when Manila Police District Deputy Director for operations Sr. Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo ordered the protest’s dispersal.
Pedrozo, along with Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police vehicle that rammed protesters, has been relieved from their positions and placed under administrative custody pending investigation.
Pedrozo has denied allegations of police brutality, saying that they exercised “maximum tolerance” and that the protesters provoked the cops into action.
Meanwhile, Kho said that he had panicked and only wanted to protect his vehicle. Kho said he did not know he was already ramming protesters under his vehicle. (davaotoday.com)