MANILA - A former official of the Manila Police District (MPD) on Tuesday repeatedly denied that he ordered the violent dispersal of indigenous people and activists during a rally in front of the US Embassy in Manila last October 19.
Several videos show former MPD deputy for operations, Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedroso, saying "i-disperse na 'yan" as he talked with Supt. Albert Barot, ground commander of the police team in the area.
Police then used tear gas to disperse about 1,000 anti-US protesters.
Footage from ABS-CBN News also show a police van running over several activists.
Pedroso, however, insisted at a congressional inquiry that he only gave "advice," not instructions, to Barot who had the authority in the area.
He added that he even called for a meeting with activists when he saw their "unruly" behavior.
"I arrived there nakita ko yung mga tao ko, puro pintura katawan, uniporme, marami nasugatan, mostly policewomen. Nakita ko mga raliyista, continuously nanggugulo pa rin sa lugar, nagba-vandalize pa rin, talagang disappointed ako sa nangyari. I immediately called for a meeting… definitely there was no order [to disperse]," Pedroso insisted.
But Barot confirmed that Pedroso ordered the dispersal. He said he did not follow the order because policemen were outnumbered by protesters and were still waiting for another firetruck to assist them in dispersing the crowd.
"With regards to the behavior sa ating mga raliyista, nagkaroon ng tulakan… siguro mga minutes na dumating sila dun ay nagakakarooon din ng vandalism sa US Embassy. Nag-negotiate ako kay Obet de Castro (activist leader). Senior Superintend Pedroso also talked with Obet de Castro," Barot narrated.
"Noong pinaabante na ni Pedroso yung mga personnel e nagkakatoon ng tulakan, there was some sort of tension sa time na yun."
Pia Malayao of IP group Katribu, meanwhile, said activists did not expect they will be dispersed violently.
Describing the protesters' mood as "relaxed," she said some tribesmen even pulled out their "nganga," set of leaves mixed with herbs, to munch on as they waited for the conclusion of their program.
"Bandang 12 [pm] nagkaroon na ng violent dispersal, nagsimula nang mamalo pulis. Yung dalawang media pinapalo ng pulis, pinapaalis sila," she recounted.
"May tear gas na pinaputok... Pinaandar at pinaharurot police mobile, nag-atras-abante. Naputol program dahil nagtakbuhan na ibang kasamahan."
UNINTENTIONAL MOBILE ATTACK
Meanwhile, the policeman who drove the police mobile said he did not intend to ram protesters.
P03 Franklin Co explained he could not see the road and only practiced "self-preservation" when he drove the vehicle as protesters tried to grab him.
Despite Co's defense, Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Zarate urged the committee to file appropriate charges against him.
Co has been reassigned to the police Regional Holding and Accounting unit while Pedroso has been transferred to the Eastern Police District.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Supt. Oscar Albayalde, said their reassignment was not a penalty or punishment.
"There is no law or policy in the PNP that prevents a police officer from being assigned in the any position while he is being investigated... We deemed it necessary due to lack of manpower, we might as well use them."
-- Report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News