Senators: Police Forces Should Not Have Brought Firearms

by Zea IO Ming C. Capistrano

DAVAO CITY —- Senators who conducted an inquiry into the April 1 violent dispersal of farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City said police forces should not have brought firearms.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said the police are prohibited to use firearms during dispersal, citing contained in section 13 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 or the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

During the public hearing of the Senate Committee on Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Cayetano said the use of firearms in dispersal of protest actions was prohibited to avoid violent incidents.

“If the protesters have rocks, you only use shields and batons. Why do you use firearms during dispersal? If you have firearms you will use it because you are also woundedCommitee-on-Human-rights-senate, you are also mad. That’s why we regulate the police not to use firearms (during dispersals),” said Cayetano.

He said a video shows that the protesters were running and he “security team” ran after and shot at them.

Cayetano asked North Cotabato police provincial director Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum if he made sure that the police were not armed. Tagum said the Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) Unit “have no firearms” but admitted that there were members of the security team, present at a distance from the protesters, who were armed.

Tagum showed a drone video showing a policeman being beaten by a protester. The police also insisted that carrying of firearm is allowed as security measure “of the unarmed CDM.”

Cayetano pointed out the law “does not distinguish CDM units.”

“Kung walang baril dun hindi nangyari yung may namatay at may naputukan (If there were no guns used, no one would have died or have suffered from gunshot),” said Cayetano.

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said he understands that Tagum “was trying to justify it as saving the life of his comrade… pero it’s wrong (but it’s wrong).”

“But that’s our point. In other countries they come back and save their (colleagues), they don’t kill the protesters,” he said.

Who ordered the dispersal?

During the public hearing, North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza denied ordering the dispersal of farmers, saying it was a police decision.

“The position stays that we have to open the national highway, as to when, that is already a police action. Kasi wala naman kaming law enforcement capability to determine kung may threat, (We have no law enforcement capability to determine if there is threat.)” she said.

Police Chief Superintendent Noel Armilla of Police Regional Office 12 said he ordered Tagum “to clear the highway” on March 31, the first day of the farmers’ barricade.

He said the clearing operations took three more days since negotiations between the protesters and the provincial government were still ongoing. Tagum said they ordered the dispersal around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 1 after “all negotiations were exhausted.”

Philippine National Police Director General Ricardo Marquez ordered the removal of Tagum from his post as provincial police director, pending the results of its own investigation.

About 6,000 farmers barricaded the national highway in Kidapawan City to demand rice and farm inputs, among others. On April 1, police forces opened fire upon the protesters, resulting in the death of farmer Darwin Silang and Enrico Fabligar.

At least 10 sustained gunshot wounds and were brought to hospitals in Kidapawan. Karapatan said 79 were arrested and detained, including three pregnant and six were tortured by policemen.( / Reposted by Philippine Daily Mirror )

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