JUST what sort of education do would-be cops get in a Philippine National Police (PNP) training to breed the kind of bullies that swooped on a number of unarmed young men and women on Friday, June 5, 2020? Certainly, not the kind that produces fine officers and gentlemen.
In what looked like a terrible act of irony committed in Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella’s “bastion of civil liberties,” the PNP embarrasses the city’s image by cracking down an assembly of roughly 20 students at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu premises, handcuffing and hauling eight people after a chilling chase. Photographs and videos of “Black Friday,” as its organizers called it, spread like wildfire on social media, at once showing a stark contrast to the peaceful assembly a day earlier at the UP campus in Diliman, Quezon City.
The UP Cebu group expressed the same dissent against the Anti-Terror Bill, now lingering at the precipice of a final push.
A first-hand account by a student, corroborated by a deluge of published photographs, claimed that the group, in an act of respect to the general community quarantine, observed social distancing. To further demonstrate good will before the growing squad of iron-geared cops, the students knelt in the style of the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests in many parts of the world. Nothing that happened on Black Friday went past proper documentation.
And yet, despite all the peering thereabouts, the policemen and their agents in mufti, unscrupulously shoved the assembly, igniting a burst of panic among the students. A public video shows one of the men held a student by the hair before manhandling her. All over, the melee showed a horrifying picture of a pig farm chase.
That this affront against a decent act of discourse under our democracy carried out in broad daylight makes the public fear for what this supposed gentlemen of the PNP could execute in the dark. Worse, this is done when the state is supposed to win the citizens’ trust as it is about to expand its surveillance and incarceration powers under a new anti-terror law. That brutish act on Black Friday certainly negates assurances of “safeguard measures” for basic human rights incorporated in the bill. Not with all the bravado that the policemen demonstrated last Friday.
All these go all the way up to the Police Regional Office Central Visayas leadership. Director Albert Ignatius Ferro insists that the whole intervention was legal, that his men could leap over fences in the name of hot pursuit despite the 1989 UP-Department of Defense Peace Accord that allows peaceful protest actions inside UP campuses without state interference. His is just the kind of quick, defensive response that emboldens more brutes in the field.
This should also go to the mayor since the incident tarnishes his claim of a city that is supposedly friendly to free speech.