iDEFEND strongly condemns the mowing down of Lumad protesters near the US embassy yesterday, and the firing of water cannons at them in front of Camp Aguinaldo last Tuesday.
The rallies called for a stop to militarization and intrusion of foreign corporations in ancestral territories. The groups further demanded an end to the presence of U.S. troops in the country, supporting what they believe to be the call for an ‘independent foreign policy’ by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The President’s call for investigation stopped short of condemning the use of brute force against the rallyists who traveled all the way from Mindanao to air their grievances. The commander-in-chief has command responsibility over their actions and should have stated the inacceptability of such forms of violence.
The public saw that rather than maximum tolerance and restraint, the violent action of the police showed a complete disregard for the lives of the people. Indigenous elders and women were run over by a police car, a woman’s hair pulled by the police, a driver beaten in the head until he lost consciousness, and several others dragged and severely beaten up before the very eyes of the public, as videos of the dispersal spread like wildfire in the quad-media.
Five remain confined with serious injuries while others are still under police custody.
The conduct cannot be divorced from the conduct that has exhibited violence and impunity in the first one hundred days of the Duterte administration with more than four thousand extra-judicially killed as a result of his violent and hard-line approach to drugs and criminality.
Though we welcome the move of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) which ordered for an administrative relief of police officials involved in the violent dispersal, we demand for an impartial investigation and immediate filing of criminal as well as administrative sanctions for those responsible.
iDefend has been reiterating that political violence has no place in a democratic society. There is nothing that can justify the inhuman act against those who were just exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.
Clearly, the police and military were emboldened by the President’s promise of protection amid mass killings by the uniformed groups.
This brazen act of violence shows the prevailing culture of brutality among the police force who are now acting above the law.
If they think that they can get away with murdering handcuffed drug suspects for allegedly resisting arrest, it is not surprising that they would not think twice to mow down anyone who are exercising their constitutional rights.
We stand in solidarity with the protesting indigenous people. They, like us, are human rights defenders. We stand steadfast in the face of attacks against the people’s democratic rights as well as any form of curtailment of such rights.