DAVAO CITY – Contingents of a human rights caravan from Mindanao to Manila, Manilakbayan, is now preparing their legal documents to file a case against the Philippine National Police-Quezon City Police District (PNP-QCPD) officerPolice Superintendent Col. Pedro Sanchez and his subordinates, following a violent dispersal last November 29 that left fifteen injured including two media practitioners.
Over 300 people representing Mindanao’s different sectors and mostly indigenous people participated in theManilakbayan ng Mindanao. The Manilakbayan (Journey to Metro Manila) started last November 12 passing by Visayas, and the Bicol and Tagalog regions where their counterparts met and joined them.
In a press statement sent to Davao Today, Wednesday, Jomorito Goaynon, spokesperson of Manilakbayan said that around 20 policemen of Police Station 2, Masambong Police Station under PNP-QCPD led by Sanchez “harassed and violently dispersed more than 200 lumads and farmers” at the protest action in front of President Benigno Aquino’s house in Times Street.
Jomorito Goaynon, spokesperson of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao said that “instead of addressing the demands of the Mindanaoans who traveled afar to register the human rights situation of hinterland Mindanao to the president and to the broadest Filipino people, we were met with a violent dispersal from the police.”
Goaynon said they were expecting that the president would take actions on their urgent demands, among which are the pull-out of army battalions in Mindanao, the cessation of destructive agro-foreign projects, the stop of military attacks on community schools, the dismissal of trumped-up charges, and the stop of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao.
According to a fact sheet prepared by human rights group Karapatan, there were 15 individuals from the ranks of the protesters who were injured including two media men. Seven were from Southern Tagalog, seven from Southern Mindanao Region, two from CARAGA Region and one from the National Capital Region.
Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan North Cotabato was hit on the neck that caused him to faint. Apiag was then rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center.
While, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary-General Antonio “Tonying” Flores, one of the leaders who negotiated with Sanchez, was arbitrarily arrested during the protest. He was detained in Camp Karingal, the headquarters of QCPD, for four days.
Karapatan said that at approximately 9:30 in the morning, they started to march from the Bureau of Internal Revenue office in Quezon City. “We were prevented to pass through when a police patrol car and five policemen blocked the road.”
“The program started at around 9:55 am and additional 10 police men positioned in front of the gate while a negotiation was going on between the two parties. P/Supt. Sanchez arrived in the area around 10:05 am and commanded his men to disperse the protest,” the group said.
Karapatan said that the program ended around 11:15 am. The protesters organized themselves to leave Aquino’s residence but the police kept on pushing the protesters with truncheons. Suddenly some police elements hit one of the protesters with a truncheon which ignited the commotion. Sanchez climbed up the mobile stage and hit Apiag on the neck.
“We successfully ended our program and we’re about to leave the vicinity when all of sudden policemen armed with truncheons violently hit, grasped and pushed our fellow protesters,” Hanimay Suazo, Secretary-General of KARAPATAN-Southern Mindanao Region said.
Suazo told Davao Today in a phone interview that the “policemen stopped the protesters’ trucks and other vehicles and started beating the protesters who are about to disperse peacefully.”
Also, there were other protesters that “were accused of charges like physical injury, illegal assembly, and direct assault,” Suazo said.
In defense, some of the protesters were compelled to fight back by throwing stones at the attacking police. Representative Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna Partylist later arrived for negotiation.
Suazo added that dispersal and delays were orders from the Malacañang.
“These attacks towards us, were order from Aquino because our calls are towards him, even the police around are telling us that ‘this is an order from the higher ups’,” Suazo said.
Yesterday, the delegates of the caravan stormed the offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
But Goaynon said that the agencies “greeted the Manilakbayanis from Mindanao with disdainful indifference.”
“DENR locked their gates as if the protesters were some predators that needed to be ward off,” Goaynon said.
“This is a showcase of insensitivity! We indigenous people have long been marginalized and yet even here in the central government, we have been taken for granted,” he said.
The protesters are condemning the current mode of resource utilization in the island of Mindanao which they describe as turning into a “food basket” for foreign agro-industrial corporations.
The delegates of Manilakbayan are presently staging their “Kampuhan” (People’s Camp) in Liwasang Bonifacio, Quezon City. The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao campaign will conclude on December 10 in time for the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day. (with reports from Earl Condeza, davaotoday.com)