By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – A week after their Oct. 19 protest at the US Embassy, nine activists, including those who were the most seriously injured in the ensuing violent dispersal, filed attempted murder charges and other criminal and administrative cases against officers and members of the Manila Police at the Office of the Ombudsman today, Oct. 26.
On Oct. 19, at least 50 were injured while 43 were arrested when the Manila Police District dispersed the rally led by the national minority alliance Sandugo. Towards the end of the program, police fired tear gas, followed by a police mobile that repeatedly rammed through rows of rallyists, injuring dozens. Hundreds of police reinforcement ran after scattered protesters, beating them with truncheons, and arresting even the injured. Police also arrested paramedics while they were treating wounded protesters.
Sandugo spokesperson Piya Argee Macliing Malayao, whose right leg was ran over by the police mobile, sat on a wheelchair as she filed the complaint along with Raymart Sumalbag, Nicole Soria, Reynaldo Moldon, Dionesio Abear, Reyan Naong, Dr. Julie Caguiat and Adam Daniel Lacson.
The ninth complainant, Baling Catubigan, a Mamanwa from Caraga region who suffered from foot fracture and other injuries, was not present in the filing as she was just to be discharged from hospital today.
The activists also charged police with other criminal cases: physical injuries, illegal arrest, violation of the rights of arrested and detained persons under Republic Act 7438, and violation of the Public Assembly Act or Batas Pambansa 880. Police were also charged with administrative charges: gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, and conduct unbecoming of a public officer.
Of those charged, only 10 police officers were identified, while others were just John Does and Jane Does:
1. Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo Jr., MPD Deputy District Director for Operations and Over-All Supervisor who directly ordered the violent dispersal;
2. Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, who drove the police mobile;
3. Supt. Albert Barot, Station Commander Police Station 5/Ground Commander;
4. Chief Insp. Dionelle Brannon, Pedro Gil Police Community Precinct Commander;
5. Chief Insp. Elmer Oseo Deputy, Police Station 5;
6. Chief Insp. Joebie Astucia, Chief of Operations, Police Station 5;
7. Chief Insp. Roberto Marinda, Company Commander CRB Augmentation;
8. Chief Insp. Roberto Mangune, Company Commander, US Embassy Detail;
9. Senior Insp. Edgardo Orongan, Chief Operations District Public Safety Battalion;
10. Police Chief Supt. Oscar David Albayalde, Regional Director of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO).
NCRPO chief Albayalde was specifically charged with obstruction of justice, as he issued statements “justifying” the acts and “exonerating” the police men, even before an investigation.
MPD’s Pedrozo ordered the dispersal, but the complainants said the eight other officers had an “indispensable” role in planning and implementing the plan.
“They should pay for what they did…they treated us like animals,” Mangyan Reynaldo Moldon told Bulatlat.
Complaint says police dispersal ‘showed intent to kill, premeditation, treachery’
In the complaint’s cover letter, the activists said PO3 Franklin Kho who drove the rampaging police mobile “had the intention to kill the protesters he ran over…as evident by the way he drove the vehicle.” Malayao, Catubigan and Soria were the most seriously injured among dozens hit by the vehicle.
In video footages, the police mobile accelerated forward and in reverse several times, dragging Soria under, who was almost hit in the head and was able to crawl out in spite of injuries.
The complainants said the police mobile was part of the plan to disperse the rally: “Clearly, respondent Kho took his cue from the firing of the tear gas, and proceeded to ram his police mobile into the crowd. These are clear indications of evident premeditation.”
The complaint cited the “near-killing” of jeepney driver Sumalbag, a member of Piston, who was seen in news videos being dragged out of his jeepney by police men, who ganged up and beat him, then left him bleeding in the head and twitching on the ground.
“From the manner by which they dragged and beat complainant Sumalbag, it was clear that there was intent to kill him. In fact, it appeared that they left him for dead,” read the complaint. Sumalbag was brought to the hospital by another jeepney driver.
Attempted murder was also cited in the case of Moldon, Abear and Naong who suffered from multiple injuries in the head, arms and back. Moldon was hit in the head with a shield by a police man, while others beat him up with truncheons. The complaint said the police showed intent to kill the three as they “specifically targeted their heads.”
Physical injuries and illegal arrest of medical team
Complainants Dr. Caguiat and medic Lacson were among those arrested, while they treated Malayao and others injured. Lacson sustained abrasions and contusions as police dragged and beat him up.
“They were arrested simply because their arresting officers were directed to do so by respondent Pedrozo, after seeing that they assisted injured protesters. There was no valid ground to arrest them,” said the complaint.
The complaint also cited violation of the rights of the accused, as lawyer Julian Oliva Jr. was prevented from entering the MPD Station 5 to serve as legal counsel for those arrested. He was only able to get in upon insistence by another lawyer, Ephraim Cortez, who arrived earlier.
The activists said the police also violated provisions of the Public Assembly Act or BP 880, namely: prohibition of carrying firearms, disruption of the right to peaceful assembly, intentionally disturbing a public assembly by the use of a motor vehicle.
Members of a police SWAT team were seen positioned along the walls of the US Embassy throughout the protest.
The complainants were assisted by lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Public Interest Law Center, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and law students from the University of the Philippines.