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Speech by Congressman Teodulo Natividad

January 25, 2010

Published on the House of Representatives’ Congressional Record, Vol. 1, No. 2-5, January 27, 1970, p. 17, with minor changes like deletion of the usual, “Mr. Speaker” in reference to the presiding officer.

I wish to focus attention on an occurrence which is part of a pattern of incidents probably witnessed by the highest officials of the land, both elective and appointive, and which also has brought about charges and counter-charges from students and police officers involved.

In today’s newspapers, especially this afternoon’s Daily Mirror, the Manila Police Department officials are quoted as saying that the violent incident last night, which has given shivers of apprehension throughout the land, was instigated by communist infiltrators in the ranks of student demonstrators. As a result of the riot last night, according to the news reports, 72 police officers and about 300 student demonstrators were injured. The police officers ascribe the incident to instigators who have been exploiting the students to resort to unjustified aggression and violence.

I quote from the editorial of The Evening News today:

“The bloody, tumultuous riot which capped yesterday’s mammoth student demonstration in front of the legislative building has brought into sharp focus the utter bankruptcy of a fashionable attitude on so-called activist movements that deliberately capitalize on defiance of duly constituted authority.

“That attitude, truth to tell, has been spawned by false liberalism and abetted by official complacency and tolerance, not to say permissiveness and complicity.”

On the other hand the column of Mr. Armando Doronila is very revealing:

“Thus when the police charged the students, the students had either to retreat or to stand fast. Those who fled were chased up to Jones Bridge and Intramuros and Lyceum. Those who did not were beaten up indiscriminately by the crash-helmeted policemen. When the students saw their companions — including the women — being beaten, they had to fight back. That was the reason they engaged the police in pitched battles in the streets, armed only with stones, bottles, chairs and their placards.”

And the editorial of The Daily Mirror says:

“For the riot that broke out after his speech in Congress can be a warning of worse things to come, unless the leaders, of their own volition, regain the confidence of a public long fed up with the abuses of politics.”

I also quote the column of Mr. Feliciano H. Magno:

“I saw Metrocom troopers and Manila policemen charging the students at the slightest shouted provocation bringing down their truncheons on heads of girl or boy students even if the latter already had their arms up in surrender or pleading for mercy. I saw already bleeding and maimed youngsters being given additional kicks and blows from the truncheons and fists of those who are supposed to protect and respect the public. The brutality made me recall the treatment accorded to Filipinos by a foreign invader in the last Pacific war.”

All this has stirred up doubts in the minds of many of our countrymen — first, as to the true motivation behind student demonstrations; and second, as to the preparedness of our police forces to deal with them. Many have observed that the police officers did not have the standard equipment to face demonstrators, like wicker shields, so that when the bottles flew, the police officers had no recourses but to charge or retreat. Thus, the casualties among the members of the Manila Police Department were quite high. The Metrocom troopers are equipped with wicker shields, but we noticed that they did not carry them last night.

Others say that the police officers should have expected abusive language during that incident and refrained from punishing the demonstrators. They aver that the police officers went after the demonstrators for using abusive language which, under normal conditions, should not be tolerated. If our troopers were really trained for the purpose, they should be able to absorb such abusive language.

In other countries, the riot squads are trained to withstand even spitting by the crowds. It is said that trainees were utilized last night in quelling the disturbance. But riot control is not for trainees. It is quite a highly specialized field, handled only by veteran officers. To entrust it to trainees is to court disaster.

We are bound to have more demonstrations if the police officers expose themselves to charges of police brutalities. By using trainees, we will have demonstrations more bloody than what we witnessed last night. Of course, the police were expecting the Manila Fire Department to quell the riot, but when the firemen went into action, water pressure was so low that their hoses were good only for gardening purposes.

I wish to focus the attention of the House on this basic problem. It might be advisable to hold a joint investigation by the House of Representatives and the Senate so as to get into the root cause of these demonstrations and determine whether our police forces are prepared to meet such exigencies. We can pass remedial legislation for the interest of the public.

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