Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has banned police from carrying guns at protests in the wake of an ugly incident in front of the US Embassy in Manila last week in which a Philippine National Police (PNP) officer reversed a police van over a group of protesters and then drove over more as he attempted to flee.
The ugly incident occurred when nearly 1,000 protestors, many from the leftist group Bayan (Nation), gathered to call for American troops to leave the island of Mindanao, where they have been stationed to assist in the eradication of Islamist militants.
In video of the incident released by the PNP, people can be heard screaming in surprise and terror as the van is propelled in reverse like a battering ram, appearing to be steered deliberately at protesters. A man yells over a loud-speaker while the crowd rushes towards the van. As people are clawing their way out from beneath the van it then rapidly accelerates forward at protestor rushing towards it. After driving over several of those, the van then proceeds backwards through the crowd again, before yet again cutting a viscous swathe through those in its path.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of left-wing group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), told Deutsche Welle News that ten people were hospitalised and 23 arrested by the end of the protest.
The driver of the van claims he is unclear about what occurred. The New York Times reported the driver, Police Officer Class 3 Franklin Kho, told reporters that it was just an accident, while in a report on Inquirer.net Kho claims he did not know he was running into anyone, only that “my life was threatened by protestors”.
This is not the first time the easily panicked, lead-footed cop has driven over protesters though. In 2010 officer Koh rammed a police van through a wall of motorised rickshaws, but at the time the driver couldn’t be identified.
On Saturday President Duterte invited officer Kho to sit down for a cup of coffee, saying “nobody would do that, maybe he was under stress”. In the meantime Mr Duterte has said that policemen should not arm themselves during protests. “Protestors can cause damage at most, and these are things that come with democracy”, he was quoted as saying.
Representatives of Sandugo, the group that organised the protest, have asked that President Duterte consider both sides of the coin, and he appears to be listening. While claiming he would also speak with the activists, however, up to now they are still waiting for their invitation for coffee.
Feature video Wall Street Journal
- Philipine police car runs amok, ramming protestors and pinning them under the vehicle (The Online Citizen)
- Cop in van who rammed protesters did it before (Inquirer.net)