NEW normal for protests.
Last June 12, a “lightning rally” composed of 10 persons and lasting for “only half a minute” was held along Gorordo Ave. to protest the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
As reported by a SunStar Cebu team on June 12, professor Regletto Aldrich Imbong, president of the All UP Academic Employees’ Union at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, said the “lightning rally” responds to the present intolerance of the police for mass assemblies beyond 10 persons.
Convenors of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) Cebu and the Youth Act Now Against Tyranny (Yanat) Cebu, which organized the June 12 lightning rally, protested police discrimination in allowing supporters of the same bill to disperse “at least eight minutes” after their assembly in downtown Cebu. No riot police present.
Why should dissenters of the bill be singled out for violent dispersal and arrest?
Based on grammar and praxis, there is no distinction between “riot police” or “anti-riot police” because, as seen from the June 5 dispersal and arrest of dissenters, the formation outside UP Cebu of the Civil Disturbance Management Unit (CDMU) of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) turned a group of 30 or so persons into a riot requiring “hot pursuit” of unarmed rallyists by heavily armed officers.
During the Marcos years, activists covered their faces with “tubao” (woven indigenous scarves) because agents in civilian attire, mingling with rallyists and spectators, were filming and photographing street protesters for the dossiers compiled by the police and the military.
Smart phone videos of the June 5 incident uploaded by UP students and faculty confirmed that operatives in civilian clothes emerged from the crowd and chased the rallyists when the order to disperse came from police higher-ups. They breached the low walls of the academe, with some snatching at and wrestling with rallyists helping companions being manhandled by these operatives.
Police presence in UP Cebu, as well as allegations of campus guards cooperating with the police in the June 5 dispersal and arrests, must be acted upon by the UP Cebu administration.
Such acts violate UP autonomy from military and police interventions, as sealed by the 1982 accord signed by student leader Sonia Soto and then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile; the 1989 agreement signed between UP president Jose Nemenzo and then secretary of the national defense Fidel Ramos; and the 1992 agreement covering the Philippine National Police (PNP), signed by UP president Jose Abueva and then Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III.
Police impunity should not be part of the new normal.