DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The video of a police van running over protesters, mostly indigenous people from various provinces has earned the ire of various groups.

Organizers said the protest of the IPs in front of the US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday was about to end when police officer Col. Marcelino Pedrozo of the PNP Manila Police District ordered the dispersal.

The rally was done to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for an independent foreign policy.

Josephine Pagalan, spokesperson of Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (Unity of Lumad Organizations) in Caraga province, said “the incident illustrates the existing situation in the Philippines.”

“Filipino police wreak violence against Filipino protesters against US imperialism. The consuls at the US embassy are laughing because Filipino bludgeon fellow Filipino as security forces of the Philippines protect them,” she said in a statement Thursday.

One of the victims was Baling Catubigan a 61-year-old Mamanwa woman, who is a member of Kasalo in Caraga.

Pagalan said Catubigan is still being treated for wounds and contusions she suffered after the police van ran over her.

“Pres. Duterte declared that the Philippines must implement an independent foreign policy but with the acts of the PNP, it is clear that the police must review the principles of genuine national defense and reject its anti-people and anti-progressive orientation,” she added.

Sanlakas Secretary General lawyer Aaron Pedrosa described the incident as a “flagrant display of State terrorism and police brutality.”

He said the violence witnessed in the protest actions is among the series of human rights abuses suffered by the Lumad and Moro people back home.

“Lumad and Moro share a long history of oppression and being driven away from their communities and livelihood due to military operations in Mindanao,” said Pedrosa.

“Cases of harassment by the AFP of Lumad communities and displacement of IP and non-IP communities have been repeatedly decried and left unaddressed by our government,” he continued.

“That indigenous peoples have to travel all the way to the capital to voice out their grievances is in itself alarming. That their protest be met with brute force is a travesty of the democratic rights the State is bound to uphold,” Pedrosa added.

Netizens also reacted on the incident.

Minnie Alejano said the incident is the effect of “tolerating human rights violations.”

“Nagiging calloused na government force natin instead ipatupad with professionalism ang criminal justice system sa bansa (Our government forces are becoming calloused instead of implementing our criminal justice system with professionalism),” she said.

John Madrazo Drueco said: “Clearly, there is an intent to kill on the part of the driver. The ground commander has no control of the situation and must be dismissed immediately.”

Meanwhile, Carmen Watkins said regardless of the protesters’ stance, they should not be treated with violence.

“This is no way to treat a human being! Really want that police driving the vehicle arrested, jailed, stripped off his badge, never to get any pay or benefits,” she said.

Former Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Teddy Casiño said what he saw on Wednesday was the “worst dispersal” he has seen.

“Marami na akong napagdaanang dispersal ng rally. Muntik nang tamaan ng bala sa Mendiola, napukpok sa SONA, nabugbog sa EDSA. Pero itong pagsagasa sa mga raliyista sa US embassy kanina ay isa sa pinakamalupit kong nakita (I have experienced several dispersals during rallies. I was almost hit by a bullet in Mendiola, I was hit during a State of the Nation Address rally in EDSA. But the running over of rallyists at the US Embassy in Manila was the worst I have seen),” he said.

Casiño said: “Are the police got used to killing drug pushers and addicts that they do not spare anyone who they want to kill? Do they believe that running over the protesting Lumad from Mindanao will be taken up as a responsibility by Digong? Is this Martial Law?”

(Masyado na bang nasanay itong mga pulis sa pagpatay ng mga adik at pusher na kahit sino na lang na hindi nila kursonada ay pwede nang patayin? Tingin ba nila na pati pagbundol ng mga nagpoprotestang Lumad galing Mindanao ay sagot ni Digong? Ano ito, martial law?)

The PNP vowed to pursue speedy investigation on the incident.

Chief Superintendent Oscar Abayalde, National Capital Region Police Office director, has ordered Thursday the relief of Pedrozo and eight other Manila Police District officers including PO3 Franklin Kho who drove the police van. (davaotoday.com)

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