Early this month, I had wondered about the missing apology from Duterte supporters given the uncalled for, unfair, and absolute harassment of media workers in relation to the President’s failed ironic claim to the analogy between him and Hitler. It seemed important to point out that there was a need to rein the President’s supporters in, especially when the President himself apologizes when he makes a mistake.
That is extraordinary because we came from a previous government that refused to apologize for anything at all.
It is ruined by the fact though that too many of the President’s followers seem to think they can make no mistakes, and that always going in for the kill — looking at biases, dismissing criticism, questioning allegiances — helps the president and this government at all. Often it only reveals that too many of them who scream at the top of their lungs, behaving badly, thinking they’re defending the President, actually end up becoming his liability, too.
In the case of the Manila Police District (MPD) officers violently dispersing the protest action at the US Embassy in Manila, what is revealed is not just a blind loyalty to the President. It also reveals a lack of understanding about what is actually going on, where the President stands on issues, what he has said about the same things that this protest action was about.
The videos are clear, and nothing will change the fact that the police mobile unit rammed through the crowd, at full speed, back and forth, back and forth. There is also no excuse for the police hitting the jeeps that carried protesters as these were leaving the scene, and finally stopping one of the jeeps, beating up its driver, and forcing passengers out of the vehicle.
It doesn’t matter whether or not the rallyists were throwing stones at the policemen — stones versus truncheons and shields? C’mon. Doesn’t matter that the protesters overpowered the policemen and were able to get on the Roxas Boulevard side of the embassy. The police had water cannons. The protesters soldiered through in a show of might.
And how great that we see this might, that we know it continues to exist.
This display of might is rare at rallies like this one, because the power relations are clear. Who holds the weapons? Not the people. The people though, at least in this case, had the numbers. Those numbers allowed them to forge through despite the policemen’s truncheons, shields, fire trucks, vehicles, water cannons.
This much is shown in this video from GMA News, but also it shows how at the point when MPD Deputy Director Col. Marcelino Pedrozo arrived and talked to his men, the rally had already settled down. There are only the sounds of the program in the background — the last speaker, we are later told by reports.
There was no chaos at all, which is why you can clearly hear the policeman say:
Wala manlang kayong nahuli. Wala manlang tayong panabla. Wala manlang kayong hinuli. Ang dami-dami niyo. Magkagulo na kung magkagulo, pulis tayo dito eh, puwede ba tayong magpatalo sa mga yan? Tangina. Ano pang mukhang ihaharap natin sa embassy, kailangan i-disperse niyo ‘yan. Lumaban kasi kayo. Mga pulis kayo hindi kayo lumalaban. (1:31 to 2:07)
This tells us that in fact, while the police themselves were just waiting for the program to finish, they were pushed to disperse the rally, violently if needed, because how embarrassing that they could not do anything for the US Embassy.
This explains how one police officer could’ve gotten into a police mobile unit and decided he didn’t care to injure or kill any protester he might hit, as long as he cleared the area and forced a dispersal — as his superior had ordered.
To add insult to the injuries of these protesters, the President’s supporters are going all out, trying to spin this into an anti-Duterte rally, which it certainly was not. If they listened at all to President Duterte’s stand against the US and foreign intervention in our lands, they would know that this is exactly what the protesters were at the US Embassy for.
If they know the President at all, he respects the right to freedom of assembly, and in fact allows rallies in Davao as long as the government and police are told when and where it’s happening so that the area might be secured. In the case of this protest action, it was announced beforehand — not at all a lightning rally — which was also why the MPD were already there. That the MPD were overpowered, despite water cannons, well, that’s a measure of how they themselves failed to secure the area, yes?
And really now: that we need to have a discussion about where these minority groups stand, who they are, what are they doing in Manila? That we even need to ask: what were they doing this rally for and towards what end? That the discussion has gone so low as trying to connect this to the Liberal Party, or Senator Leila De Lima, with bogus assertions about who the rallyists were and how much they were paid. All that is so telling of how the President’s supporters know so little, and take even less time, to learn about the state of the nation, the state of affairs that the President himself is concerned with, and takes the time to talk about.
That these supporters are mouthing exactly the same things that we would hear from Daang Matuwid for six years, every time there is a rally, and every time there is a violent dispersal — well, one wonders now from where change will come. Because certainly the blind supporters of the last government are just as bad as the blind supporters of this new one.
Which is why even as the President might be forcing us all to level up the discourse and discuss nation differently if not better, as far as public discourse dominated by social / media is concerned: nope, change has not come at all.
And that can only be to the detriment of the President himself.