The Senate Report on January 26 Demonstration

January 25, 2010

on March 12, 1970, the Senate Special Committee of the Seventh Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, published  a report, Investigation of the January 26 and 30 Rallies and the Root Causes of Mass Demonstrations. “This is a Report on the investigation of the events immediately prior to and attendant to the mass student/youth/labor/peasant demonstrations of 26th and 30th January, 1970 conducted by the Joint Committee of both Houses of Congress. The Committee was formed pursuant to House concurrent resolution No. 2 entitled Concurrent Resolution creating a Joint Committeee on Both Houses of Congress to investigate Mass Demonstrations, passed by the House on January 28, 1970 and by the Senate with amendments, on February 3, 1970.” The Senate Panel  was composed of Lorenzo M. Tañada, chairman; Jose W. Diokno, Lorenzo Sumulong, Ambrosio Padilla, Jovito Salonga, Lorenzo Teves, Helena Z. Benitez, members; Jose J. Roy, Arturo M. Tolentino, Gerardo Roxas, ex-officio members.

On April 16, 1970, the House of Representatives published a separate document in book form, Final Report on the Root Causes of Mass Demonstrations. The House Panel was composed of Aguedo F. Agbayani, chairman; Fernando R. Veloso, vice-chairman; Eduardo R. Gullas, Jose D. Aspiras, Artemio A. Loyola, Emilio R. Espinosa, and John H. Osmeña, members.

A copy of Senate report used here is available at the Filipiniana section of the UP Main Library in Diliman, Quezon City, while a copy of House Panel’s book is available at the Archives of the House of Representatives.

The two reports, although based on the joint Senate and House hearings, differ in style and presentation. We are publishing excerpts from the Senate report as it gives a coherent overview of what transpired during the two mass actions. We have deleted references to different “annexes” and “exhibits” for easier reading. –TFQSL Administrator

Statement of Facts

The permit to hold a rally “in front of the Philippine Congress Building” at the opening of Congress on January 26, 1970 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. (midnight) was obtained by the National Union of Student of the Philippines (NUSP). This rally was just one of the 20 other rallies held in other cities all over the country by the NUSP on the occasion of the opening of Congress with the principal objective of pressing for a so-called non-partisan Constitutional Convention in 1971. Another permit to hold a rally “in the vicinity of Congress” was granted to Ang Magigiting and Bomba News Magazine for the same day from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. the National Students’ League through its acting President Miss Portia Ilagan also obtained a permit to hold a demonstration in front of Malacañang from January 24 to 28.

The NUSP is a nationwide organization of 72 official student governments from both state and private institutions of learning. The majority of member institutions are private, composed of both sectarian and non-sectarian schools in more or less equal number. While individual students in a school or university whose student council is affiliated with the NUSP is not necessarily a member of the NUSP, the organization claims to represent a total of around half a million students, on the theory that the member student councils represent the respective student bodies by whom they were elected. It holds an annual Congress usually in December, to which each student council sends an average of five delegates. At this congress the President and an Executive Board of 30 members are elected. The governing body of the organization in between annual congresses is the Executive Board acting through its President. The President elected at the annual congress held last December was Mr. Edgar Jopson. The decision to hold nationwide rallies principally for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention was also made at this congress held on 26 to 31 December, 1969.

Shortly before the 26th of January, the NUSP issued a manifesto entitled “Isang Panawagan Para Sa Kombensiyon Konstitusyonal Na Walang Pakialam Ang Mga Partido Pulitiko.” The signatories of this manifesto, besides the NUSP, were: Students United Crusade for Constitutional Reforms (SUCOR), Young Christian Socialists of the Philippines (YCSP), National Youth Constitutional Convention Movement, National Students’ League (NSL, composed exclusively of state schools), Katilingban Hiligaynon, the Children’s Museum and Library, Inc., and the National Union of High School Students . These organizations along with NUSP took part in the January 26 rally. Inasmuch as the NUSP had also publicly invited all other organizations sympathetic to its demands, many other organizations also participated in the rally. Among them, the Kabataang Makabayan, the Malayang Pagkakaisa ng Kabataang Pilipino, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Masaka, Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), Samahan ng Kabataang Makati, the National Association of Trade Unions (NATU) and Christian Social Movement (CSM). The Ang Magigiting and Bomba News Magazine members also took part as they held a permit of their own to hold rally “in the vicinity” of Congress.

A few days before the rally, on 19th of January, 1970, a conference was held among the law enforcement agencies, principally the Manila Police Department and the Metrocom (PC) in Malacañang, to coordinate security measures to be adopted for the opening of Congress on January 26. At this conference, Operations Plan “PAYAPA” was discussed and adopted. The plan called for use of units of the MPD, Metrocom Central Sector (Metro CS), Metrocom Reaction Strike Force (Metro RSF), Presidential Security Agents (PSA), Metrocom Intelligence Sub Task Force and Metrocom Sub Task Force Reserve (STF Reserve), with other attached elements of the Metrocom held in reserve. All these units were placed under the overall supervision of Colonel C. Jazmin of the Metrocom as Task Force Commander. Completing the plan “PAYAPA”, the MPD drew up Operations Plan “BAGONG BUHAY” to govern its own units, which it organized into four main groups: (1) a Crowd Control Group (2) an Anti-Riot Group (3) a Traffic Control Group and (4) a Rescue Group. Overall command of the MPD units was placed on Major Alfredo Yson (Sub-Task Force Commander). On page 2 (h)(5) of Operations Plan “PAYAPA”, under “Coordinating instructions”, there appears the instruction, “Firepower will be resorted to only when troops are fired upon or when the lives of the President and his family are in immediate danger” (an instruction which though issued in connection with the January 26th rally should have been as applicable to the January 30 rally but which was not followed in the latter demonstration). Operation Plan “BAGONG BUHAY” on the other hand contains the instruction “illegal and unnecessary use of force or violence against the demonstrators shall be avoided, only those resisting arrest or as would be necessary to quell riot or disturbance”. The Crowd Control and Traffic Control groups were to be provided with crash helmets and truncheons. All regular policemen but not police trainees (“rookies”) were to bear firearms as standard equipment. The Metrocom soldiers were to carry wicker shields, truncheons and crash helmets.

The rallyists began to converge at Congress as early as 10:00 a.m. the NUSP assembled at 14 points in Manila and from these points proceeded to the rally site at approximately 2:30 p.m. The rally was to start officially at 3:30 p.m. The MPD stationed a total of 381 officers and men of which the majority were “rookies” who had undergone special 25-hour courses in riot control. The police were deployed at five main points: (1) Lobby of Congress: 16 men under LT. J. Balderian; (2) Congress driveway, north (exit) end (area B): 74 men (62 “rookies”) under Major A. Paralejas; (3) Congress driveway, south (entrance) end (area C): 67 men (30 “rookies”) under Major F. Lazaro; (4) Parking area in front of Congress (area D): 65 police trainees under Capt. F. Jueco and Kt. S. Dabu; (5) Area around flagpole front of Congress (area F): 10 regular policemen under Lt. J. Esguerra; another contingent of 7 regular policemen under Lt. S. Eusebio was also stationed at the south stairway in front of Congress alongside the entrance portion of the driveway.

Other units were held in reserve at the Agrifina Circle under Major M. Matawaran and at Police District no. 8 headquarters under Sgt. M. Rodriguez. The Metrocom soldiers, two platoons of 60 or 70 troopers, were stationed at the northern City Hall side of the demonstration site, near Major Paralejas’ contingent.

Shortly after noon, the NUSP President Edgar Jopson asked Major Yson to a conference with NUSP leaders to discuss the security or peace and order aspects of the rally. At this conference Jopson assured the MPD that the rally would be orderly and the police apparently agreed to stay away from the demonstration unless called upon. The NUSP would have its own “security forces”, students of three colleges, who would be wearing red shirts.

At about 3:30 p.m. the crowd at the demonstration site had grown to between 20,000 and 50,000. The demonstration officially began at this time with speeches from various leaders. There was a complaint about another public address system in the Legislative Building drowning out the rallyists’ speeches. This other system had been on since morning and allegedly was a cause of irritation to the demonstrators but it apparently was never permanently turned off.

Now present at the rally were other organizations like the Samahang Demokratiko na Kabataan (SDK), the Malayang Pagkakaisa Ng Kabataang Pilipino (MPKP), the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, and the Kabataang Makabayan (KM. So too, the “Ang Magigiting” led by Roger Arrienda (of “Bomba” Magazine), who brought with them a mock cardboard coffin and stationed themselves near the flagpole where the speakers were addressing the crowd. Some U.P. students on the other hand brought a mock crocodile of papier mache. At about this time (4:30 p.m.) too, a group of demonstrators in diamond formation edged themselves towards the center right in front of the flagpole.

The speakers, among them Luis Taruc, were now being booed amid cries of  “We want Dante”, “We want Dante”. The situation at this point had become somewhat tense but remained peaceful. At about 4:45 p.m. the President arrived and entered the Congress building greeted by a general booing from nearby demonstrators. Shortly thereafter, the President’s State of the Nation address was heard over the second public address system (which was on again) and the demonstrators again complained that their speeches were being drowned out. According to the police, the second loudspeaker system was then disconnected .

Ten minutes before 6:00 p.m., allegedly because of the high school student demonstrators who had to return home before dark, but probably also because of the growing tension, Jopson proclaimed the rally at an end. The National Anthem was sung and promptly thereafter, Jopson was “whisked away” by friends.

Unfortunately it was only minutes after this that the President came out of the Congress building. There was therefore not enough time for many of the rallyists to disperse when the President appeared at the doorway of the building. At this point, it is difficult to establish the exact sequence of events but gleaning from the various testimonies not all of which are in exact accord, and television films taken on the spot, it seems that as the President was walking to his car surrounded by security men, the cardboard coffin was passed from hand to hand by the demonstrators towards the Presidential car, then tossed in the direction of the President whose way towards the car was being cleared by security men jostling the people milling around. The coffin was tossed back toward the crowd by the security men and tossed again in the direction of the President. The same thing was done to the mock crocodile. Simultaneous with this or seconds thereafter, placards and sticks were tossed in the same direction amid a general outcry of verbal abuse, but according to Cesar Landicho, the Manila Times reporter who witnessed this phase of the demonstration, the placards and sticks fell short where the President was and landed only in the flagpole area. Up to this point most probably no stones were yet being thrown although there is testimony to the contrary. The President and Mrs. Marcos were literally pushed into the Presidential car by security agents and they were also “whisked away” from the scene.

After the President had left, the hurling of sticks and placards and now stones continued. The verbal testimony at this point is also conflicting. The police and Metrocom claim that they simply maintained their ground and only tried to arrest those who had actually thrown objects at them. But photographs, the television films from ABS and CBN network which were shown during the hearings, and the testimony of eyewitnesses who claimed that the agents of the law did more than arrest the obvious culprits, show that they rushed the crowd and beat them mercilessly and indiscriminately. Thus Mr. C. Landicho, the Manila Times reporter, replying to the question, “What happened in front of the Legislative building as the President was about to board his car?”, stated, “What I saw was the throwing of placards, stones towards the flagpole… I went down. I was on the driveway. So I went down. I saw the Metrocom troopers charging demonstrators and I think I saw them – I don’t know why our photographers were not able to get some pictures of the action… there were some students injured. I even helped some of them. Whenever a student is arrested I told the Metrocom, do not punish him he is already under your custody…”

So also, the testimony of Father Edmundo Garcia “… I saw the President coming down together with the First Lady… All of a sudden I saw sticks and wooden frames from the placards raining in the air. I went for cover at the side and then I saw the policemen rush to the students with their truncheons…”

Mervyn Encanto, Secretary–General of the NUSP and himself a victim of the beating, declared “… at around six o’clock some people shouted that the President is coming out. Then, the demonstrators started shouting ‘Marcos-Puppet’, etc. and then “Buwaya” and those things. After a few minutes I felt that people were scampering. I looked around, policemen were going after the students. Policemen were running after the students and students were throwing sticks to the policemen”.

Sammy Camero, photographer of the Philippines Herald, also declared that when he arrived at the front of Congress at 6:30 p.m., the riot was already going on. All this testimony is as much as corroborated by Senator Emmanuel Pelaez himself whom Father Edmundo Garcia directed to appeal to help stop the commotion as he “was stepping out” of the hall of Congress, shortly after the President had ended his address. In a moving speech delivered on the floor of the Senate the day after the tragedy, the senator related, “I went down the steps of this building and crossed to the other side of the ramp, in front of the building. Then I saw five policemen bodily lifting a frail youth of about 18 years old, whose name I later learned to be Romeo Acosta. And as they had him up here on this side of the ramp, there were five policemen who were poised to rain their night sticks on him. By instinct, I embraced the youth to protect him. And when Chief Tamayo came, I asked him to calm down his men.” Senators Antonino and Laurel also took the floor to relate what they saw during the rally.

Senator Antonino said: “Mr. President, I would like to make a few comments. I do not have a prepared speech, but the scene last night touched me as a mother, not as a legislator. While I was going down the stairs, I was approached by about five of seven boys from the different universities and they said, as if they were begging on their knees, “Senator Antonino, help us. We are going to be killed. We are going to be finished. What kind of government is this? Can you not help us? Such pleading shuddered me. Although I was dressed up in my Filipina Dress and with my high-heeled shoes, I had to go with them. They were pointing at a boy who was lying prostrate at the door of our Congress, with back of his head badly beaten and his blood oozing from it. I examined the wound and it was a bad cut right of his head. Immediately with the help of my sister I’ve pick up the boy and took him by the side of the wall. I tried to look for ammonia but there was none, so I took my fan and fanned him, and called for my driver but he was not around. So, we carried the boy downstairs, the four of us–including my two assistants in the office–but the policemen never offered to help us. I said, “What are you doing? Why don’t you call an ambulance or commandeer a car and bring this boy to the hospital?” But they did not even answer. Thus, we went down, some men were down the stairs, and a car was parked. I said, “Commandeer that car, and take this boy to the hospital.” Then, when the boy was off to the hospital, I stood at the portals of this building and made my observations. Many policemen were just standing, but most of them, were running after the students and hitting them with sticks! I saw one boy lying on the street, and they still kept on beating him. Many of the boys ran to the second floor of this building, and one of them told me, “Senator, don’t go out, you may be harmed.” They said, “Get inside.” I wanted to see the boy get off to the hospital. So, I stood for a few minutes waiting for my car to come. With such a sight, I thought of my own four boys who are their contemporaries in college. They are not idiots, they are not imbeciles, they are not criminals or sadists. Those students only asked to be heard, and wanted to have a non-political convention that will amend the constitution. They had noble intentions!

When I got home, my children told me, “Mommy have you seen the television?” I said, “No.” They said, “You should have seen girls who were inside the jeep being dragged out by the policemen and were beaten up. We even drive sheep peacefully to their grazing lands, but our boys and girls last night were mobbed by some sadistic-minded police officers. But last night was a picture of what kind of law we have under such a situation. What will happen to our country when there will be war, when during this time of peace, people without arms are treated that way? There may be a cause when people fight with arms. They may be more glorified. But what is the glory of fighting people who are unarmed?”

Mr. President, I do not know the name of that boy, but I think that boy will be mentally disabled–the way I look at him–and God forbid!”

Senator Laurel on his part said: “Without wishing to prejudge the policemen nor exculpate the students, I must invite attention to the fact that the riot police made unnecessary use of force. Helpless women fell prey to their truncheons. I saw with my own eyes four students who were standing fast, holding the streamers of their organization and, without any provocation on their part, being attacked and beaten up by the police.

The overzealousness of the riot police was not exactly spontaneous. I noticed that most of them did not have their nameplates on.”

The police on the other hand insist that they stuck to a policy of “containment” from the outbreak of disturbance at about 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and that was only at eight that the order of dispersal was issued. The Chief of Police, Gerardo S. Tamayo, claimed that when the objects began to be thrown from the ranks of the demonstrators he ordered his men “to tighten close ranks”, then when the objects kept raining down, “to catch those throwing stones” but that by 8:00 p.m. when “no more fire trucks were coming and we were afraid that the riot was going to escalate into more serious proportions and would probably entail more damages and injuries and even fatalities… Then we decided that it is time that we give the order “to disperse”.

Between six and eight o’clock however, besides the testimony of the witness cited above, many incidents are sufficiently established to have occurred which tend to negate the claim that the police were all this time merely “containing” the crowd and arresting only those actually throwing stones or other objects. Among these, mention may be made of the following:

1. There is to begin the case mentioned by Senator Pelaez , of the 18-year old youth whom five policemen were poised to beat with their sticks but whom he embraced to protect. This happened just as Senator went out of Congress in answer to Father Garca’s appeal or around 6:30 p.m.

2. Mervyn Encanto interceded with the police to stop beating the demonstrators at around 6:45 p.m. but was himself beaten up shortly before 7:00 p.m., suffering a severe cut in the rear skull, contusions on the left forehead, back, abdomen and buttocks.

3. Four young men bearing a streamer of the Kabataang Makabayan were attacked by about 200 policemen (probably exaggerated) and the “four of them were really on the ground before they (the police) left them”, at about 6:45 p.m.

4. At about 7:00 p.m. that evening, the police fell upon a jeepney hired by the U.P. Student Council bearing a public address system. The jeep was then filled mostly with girls, among them, the witness Patricia Felipe. The police rained blows upon the occupants of the jeep indiscriminately although the latter were so packed inside they were in no position to defend themselves much less retaliate. The occurrence of this incident is overwhelmingly established by evidence testimonial and pictorial. But for an eyewitness and victim’s account of it, we refer to the testimony of Patricia Felipe, mainly to be found on this transcript. The police claimed the jeepney was loaded with stones but they could present no proof of this. Other witnesses who saw the jeepney declared they had not seen stones. The police also claimed that the girls were covering the boys to protect them against the police–as if this was excuse enough to beat up the girls themselves which they did. But the fact is that the situation was the other way around, the boys were on the outside trying to protect the girls. This is borne out by Miss Felipe’s testimony as well as Castor Santiago’s (Manila Times photographer), and Prudencio Villavicencio, a 38-year old student of the Arellano University, among others, but especially by the photographs of the event.

The record of the Philippines General Hospital to which most of the victims of that evening’s demonstration were sent for treatment moreover shows that many if not the majority of cases were admitted between six and eight or shortly after eight o’clock.

Between six and eight, Senator Pelaez tried several times to persuade the police, through Chief Tamayo, to desist from the attacks on the students but to no avail. Moreover, demonstrators in turn were equally relentless and would not stop their attacks whether in defense or pure rage against the police. So the battle went on for two and a half hours, and more or less ended at about 8:30 p.m.

By then, scores had been wounded, many seriously. The Philippine General Hospital alone recorded 41 victims. Many more wounded must have gone home to nurse their wounds privately. The police place their casualties at 72 injures and those of the demonstrators at 300. Property damaged included two cars one belonged to Senator Roy, a fire truck, two police jeeps and other vehicles, the iron fence around the flagpole fronting Congress and several crash helmets according to police.

What was not known on that unhappy night of the 26th was that tragic as it in itself was, it was to be only the prelude to a far more sorrowful tragedy four days later.

Findings and Observations

1. The Committee is inclined to hold that both the NUSP and the NSL cannot be held responsible for the outbreak of violence at the January 26  rally. The rally was up to its official termination shortly before 6:00 p.m. peaceful and orderly. And it was terminated by the NUSP president almost abruptly because he must have sensed the mounting tension among many rallyists which easily could erupt into violence.

2. The more “militant” participants in that rally, do appear to have contributed to the tension which ultimately led to the outbreak of violence. There appears to have been an attempt on their part to project themselves somewhat vigorously on to the scene late that afternoon, when in a diamond formation they replaced the NUSP-NSL members (mostly girl students) from the center portion of the crowd in front of the flagpole. Included in this were militant groups like the Kabataan Makabayan, the Samahan Ng Kabataan Makati, the Malayang Pagkakaisa Ng Kabatang Pilipino, the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. But the Committee is not prepared to find that these groups perpetrated the first acts of violence which set off the disturbance.

3. The trouble actually started–in point of time–minutes or even seconds after the appearance of President Marcos at the portals of Congress after his State of the Nation address. The mock coffin and the mock alligator were passed from hand to hand towards the President. This in itself was not an unlawful act–it being merely a graphic if melodramatic form of expressing an opinion. The fact that both coffin and alligator painted with a dollar sign on its body were tossed back to where they had come from, and that this happened two times, apparently angered the demonstrators which then hurled its placards, including their wooden frames, towards where the President was. But this action may not again have been aggressive in intent, since it must have been obvious to the hurlers that their placards, thrown from such a distance, would not reach or hit the President. Most of them in fact landed on fellow demonstrators standing in front of the throwers. The action was more likely another, but more violent, form of reacting to the throwing back of the coffin and the alligator.

4. But the action was escalated. Bottles, stones and heavier objects began to be hurled as well. However, by this time, the weight of the evidence is that President Marcos had already gone. Who actually began throwing these more lethal objects may never be known. The two possibilities are that they were demonstrators who had lost control of themselves (and this would not have excused or excluded them) or infiltrators planted to discredit the demonstrators’ cause and alienate public sympathy. The Committee is unable to make a definite finding on this point.

5. Whatever the source of the stone and bottle throwing, the fact is well-established that the agents of the law and especially the Manila Police, over-reacted in response to the new situation. An efficient police which wanted to abort, not escalate, an impending riot by a limited number of people (not all the demonstrators were “militant”) would have tried to brave out the storm of sticks and stones, suffered a few injuries to the body (they all wore helmets and many had shields) and waited for the hurlers either to tire or run out of things to throw. (There was no evidence whatever to show that the demonstrators had brought with them a supply of stones. On the contrary Major Paralejas and Lazaro and Capt. Jueco who saw the demonstrators as they came into the area of the rally testified that they did not see the demonstrators carrying stones or weapons except their placards. The President was gone and most of the other dignitaries had either left or were safely inside the Congress building. There was no compelling reason why the stone throwing had to be immediately stopped by, as shall soon be pointed out, such drastic methods as were in fact employed.

6.  By trying to stop it and using brutal methods in the attempt to stop it, the police succeeded only in enraging the demonstrators further, infuriating even those who had until then been peaceful, and so in effect spreading, magnifying and escalating the disturbance.

7.  That they employed brutal methods to “quell” the disturbance is impossible to doubt or deny. The case of the jeepney–full of boys and girls referred to in the statement of facts, is one eloquent piece of incontrovertible piece of evidence. In this particular case several Manila Policemen were involved but one was positively identified (Lt. Estanislao de Leon). The case of the four youths bearing the streamers of the Kabataan Makabayan is likewise indubitably established by the testimony of several witnesses, photographs and television films shown during the hearing. Senator Laurel was in fact still another witness to this incident and in a speech delivered on the floor of the Senate the following day, he declared, “I saw with my own eyes four students who were standing fast, holding the streamers of their organization and, without any provocation on their part, being attacked and beaten up by the police.” Another exhibit is a photograph of another instance of brutality, showing a fallen and obviously helpless demonstrator surrounded by policemen being still beaten by at least one policemen, and probably by the others as well. The policemen shown in the act of swinging his club has been identified as police trainee Enrique David. Unfortunately in spite of efforts of the Committee it could not get any witness to identify the fallen demonstrator. The other policemen appearing in another photograph surrounding the fallen demonstrator have been identified as Trainees Melchor Victoria, Ronaldo Vidal and Luis Natividad.

The case of the 18-year old youth ganged up upon by five policemen, witnessed by Senator Pealez, has already been referred to in the Statement of Facts. So has the case of Mervyn Encanto. Senator Magnolia Antonio was also witness to acts of brutality. Speaking in the Senate the day immediately following the rally, she said, “I stood at the portals of this building and made my observations. Many policemen were just standing, but most of them, were running after the students and hitting them with sticks! I saw one boy lying on the street, and they still kept on beating him.”

8. The law enforcers erred in three important respects when they went on this rampage:

First, they started beating demonstrators indiscriminately i.e., without regard to innocence or guilt or even to sex. This was patently unjust to the innocent and reprehensible conduct towards the gentler sex on the part of men supposed to represent “Manila’ Finest”. But more than that it had the double effect of (1) compelling many of the innocent to fight back either in self-defense or defense of their companions and therefore spreading the disturbance and (2) nullifying whatever deterrent effect the beating might have had because the guilty who saw the innocent being flayed saw no reason to stop their acts of lawlessness–they would be beaten up anyway whether they continued fighting or not.

Second, the methods employed were unquestionably brutal, in no way proportioned to the gravity of the offense committed. The demonstrators were not just being beaten to make them disperse, they were being beaten to hurt them–in obvious rage and vindictiveness. The demonstrators were no longer armed with even stones or sticks when they were being beaten. Some of the demonstrators were heard to plead, “Ayaw ko na”; “Ayaw ko na”; “Suko na ako”; “Suko na kami”. But still the truncheons fell. “Anger”, observes the penologist Sir Walter Moberly (The Ethics of Punishment, p. 67) “will never be a legitimate motive for action, whether it is simply private resentment, or whether it assumes the more special guise of a disinterested moral indignation. Punishment should be inflicted, if at all, not to satisfy a natural impulse but on a reasoned plan, in cold and not in hot blood”. Hot blood alone can fully explain the police action on the night of January 26.

But the most important point, is third, that the police and the Metrocom on that night were punishing, whereas their job is not to mete out punishment–that is the function of the courts – but to enforce the law, to prevent its violation. All they had to do to carry out this mandate was to arrest the offenders and disperse the crowd without flogging them mercilessly and indiscriminately.

To show that they failed in this the Committee has only to quote from the report of Mr. Cresencio Vasquez (whom the MPD, no less, presented as their witness) which appeared in the January 27 issue of the Manila Daily Bulletin:

“The scene was one of savage spectacle as policemen from the anti-riot squads of Manila and Quezon City swung their truncheons almost at everyone who was on the side of the demonstrators.

“They flew into a blind rage, clubbing almost everyone on their path after being hit by flying objects hurled by the demonstrators.”(Underscoring supplied).

This fact is also borne out by the nature of the injuries sustained by the demonstrator-victims who were brought to hospitals for treatment. The list of such victims submitted by the Philippine General Hospital, where most of the injured were treated, clearly shows the preponderance of head and upper body injuries, (contusions, lacerations, bone fractures, hematomas) over injuries to the legs and lower body where the blows should have been directed if the object had merely been to “quell”. Of a total of 36 diagnosed cases of demonstrator victims, 25 were recorded as involving head wounds, four injuries exclusively to the arms, six exclusively to the torso and one exclusively to the legs. The injuries to the arms moreover may well have been inflicted while those arms were attempting to cover the head.

9. Would a private citizen in the same circumstances not have been right or justified to act as the law enforcers did in this instance–meet force with superior force? Perhaps. But the police are not private citizens. They must understand their role. Their job is to maintain the  peace, to restore order, not to defend their personal rights (except where life or limb are in danger) or assuage their ruffled feelings or offended sense of official authority or dignity.

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders created by the U.S. President in 1967 had occasion to remark in its final report, that “discipline of the control force is a crucial factor. Officers at the scene of a ghetto disorder are likely to suffer vilification, and to be the targets for rocks or bottles. Nevertheless, police discipline must be sufficiently strong so that an individual officer is not provoked into unilateral action. He must develop sufficient confidence in himself and his fellow officers to avoid panic or the indiscriminate – and inflammatory – use of force that has sometimes occurred in the heat of disorders. Discipline of this sort depends on the leadership of seasoned commanders and the presence in the field of sufficient supervisory officers to make major decisions.” (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, pp. 174-175) The Report quotes a training bulletin issued by the Chicago Police Department which may be instructive at this point:

“Preventing civil disorders is always easier than suppressing them. The police officer, by disciplining his emotions, recognizing the rights of all citizens and conducting himself in the manner his office demands, can do much to prevent a tension situation from erupting into a serious disturbance.” (p. 173)

“The basic rule, when applying force”, the FBI riot-control manual also quoted in the Report states, “is to use only the minimum force necessary to effectively control the situation. Unwarranted application of force will incite the mob to further violence, as well as kindle seeds of resentment for police that, in turn, could cause a riot to recur. Ill-advised or excessive application of force will not only result in charges of police brutality but also may prolong the disturbance.” (p. 176)

No apter words than those last two sentences can be used to describe what in fact happened on January 26 and its recurrence four days later on January 30.

10. To defend their action, the Manila Police Department invokes the case of U.S. vs. Mojica (42 Phil. 784) wherein the court held that “a police officer, in the performance of his duty, must stand his ground and cannot like a private individual, take refuge in fight; his duty requires him to overcome his opponent. The force which he may exert therefore differs somewhat from that which may ordinarily be offered in self-defense x x x x x a police officer is not required to afford a person attacking him the opportunity for a fair and equal struggle.”

The case does not apply. First of all, we have seen that the police did much more than just “overcome” the opponent on the 26th. The opponent was in numerous cases already pleading “Suko na ako, Ayaw ko na”, but the blows still came.

Moreover, the Court in that case was ruling on the duties of a police officer in respect of a criminal individual, not of an unruly or potentially unruly mass of thousands of people. This is a fundamental point and may in part explain the dismal failure of the MPD and other agents of law enforcement on the 26th. One does not treat a mass of people the way one treats an individual caught committing an offense. The references above to the Report of the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders ought to be enough to underscore the radical difference between the two situations–in the one, the law enforcer is on more or less even terms with his opponent and it is his duty to overcome him (although the force employed to overcome the treat or danger posed); in the other he is dealing with a mass and must use the psychology of the mass to avoid the eruption of a riot or if one has erupted, to quell it, and the least wise thing he could do is to try to overcome the opponent not only because that is impossible but because in most cases of this sort, to try to do so is likely only to explode the problem further. The methods required to meet the challenge of a single or a few criminals are apt to be the opposite of those necessary to meet that coming from a restive mass of people. Especially is this so, when we consider that in every concourse of people assembled to protest bitter national issues there are bound to be a few who will want a riot and will perpetrate acts advisedly to spark it off. One of the more obvious ways of doing this is by taunting the police. That is why the U.S. Advisory Commission stresses that “officers at the scene… are likely to suffer vilification, and to be the targets for rocks or bottles. Nevertheless, police discipline must be sufficiently strong so that an individual officer is not provoked into unilateral action”.

11. The police insist that they stuck to a policy of containment until 8:00 p.m. that evening and that only after eight did they resort to “dispersal”. This is difficult to believe because most of the flogging happened well before eight, almost as soon in fact as the President had left a little after six. But whatever the policy, it was wrong for reasons already above-stated. The Committee cannot accept that even a policy of dispersal would allow the police to club people indiscriminately including those who had stopped resisting and lay helpless on the ground.

12. Was the brutal flogging part of instructions given the law enforcers or was it merely due to the sadism of individual officers of the law? The Committee believes it was a combination of both. The proven instances of brutal treatment of the demonstrators were far too many to be isolated cases of individual perverseness. The television films that are now part of the record of this case bring this out vividly and forcefully. There was a pattern. Another disturbing fact is that far too many of the law enforcers bore no nameplates or had them covered, and the further fact that their superiors apparently tolerated this omission despite a long standing agreement between student demonstrators and the Mayor of Manila that the police officers assigned to demonstrations would always carry nameplates prominently. There are many photographs showing policemen without or with hidden nameplates. This too constituted a source or irritation to the students and contributed to the tension. The very fact that nameplates were removed or covered could be taken as an indication of an intent to do wrong.

13. The onus of responsibility for what happened therefore seems to lie more heavily on the authorities themselves rather than on the individual policemen. The impression is unavoidable that most of the policemen felt they were acting under instructions, or enjoyed the implicit approval of their superiors when they went on that rampage. Several senators tried to persuade the Chief of Police himself to stop his men but Chief Tamayo did not seem to feel that his men were doing anything wrong. Not only that, even in the course of this investigation there was an obvious unwillingness on the part of the police to identify fellow policemen photographed in patent acts of brutality.

14. Another critical factor that contributed to the outbreak of trouble may also have been the fact that the law enforcement agencies were conditioned to expect trouble. This is evident from a cursory reading of Operations Plans “PAYAPA” (a misnomer) and “BAGONG BUHAY” in which the demonstrators were designated matter-of-factly as “enemy forces” while the law enforcement agencies were described as “friendly forces” as though war was expected when in fact only a demonstration was about to take place. A demonstration is not a war. It is essentially a peaceful form of protest. People about to wage a war against the civil authority do not publicly announce the fact and they do not proceed to the meeting place, a majority if not all of them unarmed.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation describes a demonstration (in its riot control manual) in the following manner:

“A peaceful or lawful demonstration should not be looked upon with disapproval by a police agency, rather, it should be considered as a safety valve possibly serving to prevent riot. The police agency should not countenance violations of law. However, a police agency does not have the right to deny the demonstrator his constitutional rights.” (cited in the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (1968), p. 171). #


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