This week, we watched with horror as a police officer repeatedly and brazenly rammed scores of protesters in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people. We gasped at the sight of men lying under a police van, about to be run over. We witnessed how heavily-armed cops truncheoned water-cannoned, and beat up protesters It was the most violent dispersals we have seen in years.
The least that the President could have said was:
“I extend my solidarity to all those who were hurt. I strongly denounce the violence committed by the police. What they did was will not be tolerated under this government. I reprimand and I will move to file charges against the police officers who—as numerous video reports clearly showed—used disproportionate force against the protesters and violated their right to protest.”
Instead, after two days of silence while the rest of us boiled with anger and demanded justice, the President has instead chosen to act as a lawyer for the police.
Instead of saying the only thing that must be said in the face of what happened—-i.e. that the violence was unacceptable—he instead echoed the line of those who have chosen to justify the cop’s unjustifiable actions. More than that, he even invited the cop to Malacanang “for coffee.”
We at the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino are not entirely surprised by this response: This, after all, is the same President who has repeatedly said that he will protect and pardon any cop accused of committing human rights violations, who has said that he is “happy to slaughter” more than 3,000 criminals, and who wants to bury Marcos—the dictator who ran over the lives of thousands—as a “hero.”
But, while not surprising, his response is still shocking and unacceptable. By choosing to lawyer for the cops and refusing to condemn their blatant abuse of power, Duterte is in effect telling cops: “It’s OK to ram protesters. You will just be ‘investigated’ and invited to have coffee with the President. And he is in effect telling us: “Don’t count on the police not to run you over in case you decide to fight for your rights.”
As commander-in-chief, the President bears command-responsibility for the shocking violence that happened this week. He certainly did not create the climate of impunity that now reigns in our country. But by repeatedly shielding abusive cops and now refusing to condemn the shocking violence they had just committed, he has certainly further reinforced it—encouraging many other cops to think they really can get away with attempted murder.
We reiterate our demand for justice and we call for accountability—not just from the cops, but also from the President himself.