The Senate Report on January 30 Demonstration

January 29, 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

Four permits to rally were issued by the Manila City Mayor’s Office for January 30. One, to Ricardo S. Cortez of the Anti-graft League of the Philippines, to demonstrate from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in front of Congress. The second, to Brig. Gen. Dionisio Ojeda (Ret.) of the Retired Veterans Association, Inc., to demonstrate beginning January 19, 1970 and without date specified for expiry of permit, at Freedom Park in front of Malacañang. The third, to Roberto Arao and Rev. Fr. David Albano, College Editors Guild, to rally or march to Congress via Taft Avenue, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., January 29 to February 1, 1970.mikhail The last permit was issued to Ben Compti for the Young Socialists of the Philippines (YCSP), to demonstrate before Congress from January 27 to February 2, 1970. There was only one permit actually issued therefore to demonstrate in the vicinity of Malacañang on January 30–that of the Retired Veterans Association, Inc. The other permits were for rallies or marches near or in front of Congress only, not Malacañang. But most newspapers on January 30 announced a massive student rally in front of Malacañng to denounce the “police brutality” of January 26 and repeat demands for a non-partisan Constitutional Convention (Manila Times, Jan. 30, 1970; Daily Mirror, Jan 30, 1970).

No evidence has been adduced to show whether the Anti-Graft League or the College Editors Guild or the Veterans Association did in fact hold their rallies on the 30th. What concerns this investigation more in any event is the Young Christian Socialists’ rally. This demonstration was a large one, swelled by sympathizing organizations like the NUSP and the NSL who “shared” the YCSP permit. The crowd at its height was estimated at over 20,000. It began at 9:00 in the morning and insofar as the NUSP and the NSL were concerned, ended at 2:00 p.m. It was described as “peaceful and beautiful” by one of the participants, Miss Portia Ilagan . And so in fact it was.

After two o’clock, the NSL leaders met at their office and proceeded to the College of Holy Spirit in Mendiola to await an appointment with President Marcos who had requested to talk with several student leaders. Many NSL and NUSP demonstrators presumably went home after two but it is probable that many more joined the march to Malacañang later.

The NUSP and NSL representatives invited by the President, led by Mr. Edgardo Jopson and Miss Portia Ilagan, assembles at the college of the Holy Spirit from where they were fetched by a presidential aide and brought to the President’s office at around 4:00.

Back at the Congress however, the other rallyists did not end their demonstration until shortly past 6:00 p.m. when the National Anthem was sung. After the Anthem, the rallyists, apparently without benefit of permit, and augmented by new arrivals, then marched along the City Hall to Malacañang.

The law enforcement agencies however were not unprepared for this development. Arrangements to secure Malacañang had been made as early as January 28 when officers of the PC Metrocom met those of the Presidential Security Agency and the next day coordinated their plans with the Manila Police Department in a meeting at which Mayor Antonio Villegas was present.  Under arrangements reached at the latter conference, the MPD was to be primarily responsible for law and order in the areas expected to be covered by the demonstrators, including Malacañang. The Metrocom would provide only “supporting/ augmenting force”.

The PC Metrocom apparently considered the dangers inherent in the demonstration so great that they offered to provide and did provide the MPD with 150 wicker shields, 25 gas masks, 153 steel helmets with liners, five 2 ½ ton (6×6) truck (six were promised but one broke down at the last moment), and one radio-equipped car “netted” with the Metrocom Command Net. Another “radio” car was provided the presidential Security Agency (PSA).

Deployment of forces was as follows:

1. North Sector. 14 officers and 240 enlisted men under Lt. Col Jorein I. Aguilar, attached to the Presidential Security Guard and stationed in Malacañang at 6:10 a.m.;

2. Central Sector. 9 officers and 102 men under Lt. Col. Norberto Calderon, stationed at the Presidential Economic Staff (PES) building compound on Arlegui Street from 6:00 a.m.;

3. South Sector. 8 officers and 108 men under Lt. Col. Santiago Tongio stationed at 4:50 p.m. at the Quirino Granstand (Luneta) but later (6:00 p.m.) moved to the PES compound;

4. Reaction Strike Force. 9 officers and 132 men under Maj. Leodegario Victorino, Stationed from 6:00 a.m. at the PES compound; this force was augmented by another 4 officers and 45 men (PC) at 9:45 a.m.;

5. Headquarters Metrocom. 22 officers and 96 men, headed by Col. Mariano Ordoñez as Commanding Officer and Col. Cesar Jasmin as Deputy Commander, set up at 9:15 a.m. at the PES compound.

As above-mentioned, the MPD was to provide peace and order maintenance primarily. Under Operations Order No. 1-70, the MPD was to control traffic along J.P. Laurel Street and conduct disturbance control operations if necessary as directed by Mayor Villegas. The MPD deployed itself in two areas, one group near the Centro Escolar University under Major de Guzman and the other at the San Miguel Pro Cathedral under Major Yson. Both groups were concealed or attempted to be inconspicuous at the start of the rally. The north sector was to be attached to the PSA which would secure Malacañang itself. The Central Sector would secure the area in front of Malacañang while the South Sector (earlier at the Quirino Grandstand) would act as reserve. The Reaction Strike Force would on orders disperse demonstrators “towards the west”. All operations were to be under overall command of Headquarters which would also provide a medical station. One other unit not above enumerated was the MID (Metrocom Investigation Detachment) with a mission to conduct continuous surveillance in front of Malacañang.

Among the coordinating instructions, the following may be cited:

x x x x

“(3) Trouble makers among the demonstrators will be identified, segregated, arrested and turned over to the MPD for disposition.

(4) Maximum tolerance to demonstrators should be observed.

(5) The use of force will be avoided, and shall be resorted to only when necessary” (p. 2 (g), (3), (4) and (5), Annex “B”, Exh. “A” – Ordoñez).


Significally absent from the new set of coordinating instructions was that which appeared in Operations Plan PAYAPA (for the rally of the 26th), “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”.

By 6:20 p.m. the march to Malacañang was well underway.  5,000 demontrators were reported to have left for Malacañang at around 5:00 p.m., 9,000 more at 6:10 p.m. By 6:20, Metrocom reported that about 15,000 were marching towards Malacañang. The Metrocom report notes that a Philippine flag carried by the marchers was flying with the red side up. Shortly after 7:00 most of the marchers were in the immediate vicinity of Malacañang, to join other thousands who had there converged from other starting points. All told, the crowd was estimated at 30,000.

At about the time the demonstrators were marching to Malacañang, President Marcos, assisted by some Senators and Congressmen, was holding his “dialogue” with some 20 students led by Edgar Jopson, Portia Ilagan and Crispin Aranda (head of Student Council of the Philippine College of Commerce). This conference, which may be dealt with a greater length in the report on root causes, was moderately successful, the President making a few important concessions to youth demands (though as later reported not enough in the students’ view).

Before the dialogue had ended however, trouble had already begun to erupt outside the gates of Malacañang so that both Jopson and Ilagan had to be ferried across the Pasig to get out of the palace compound. Some claim the disturbance started because explosives were set off within the Malacañang compound followed by a rain of stones as the marchers began to arrive. Metrocom and the police on the other hand claim the explosives came from the rallyists’ side. It had by then become dark but the lights on the Malacañang fence remained unlighted. The crowd shouted for lights but when they were put on, they proceeded to stone the lamps one by one. Another version was that stones were being thrown at the demonstrators from inside the compound and some of these were hitting the lamps. That there were stones being thrown from Malacañang cannot be doubted as one radio commentator witnessed and reported it on-the-spot. What seems also established is that the lights were not on as evening fell and were lit only after a clamoring for light from the crowd.

The demonstrators had been broken up by “blocking” operations of the Metrocom into two main sections- the first, mostly consisting of marchers from Congress was gathered around the area of Freedom Park in front of the main gate (Gate 3) and the other, in the area fronting Gate 4 and at the intersection of J. P. Laurel, Arlegui and Mendiola streets. Those in front of Gate 3 did not know what was going on in front of Gate 4.

At the main gate there were speeches, bonfires and some stone-throwing. But it was in the second area where the really serious trouble began. Several rallyists aver that the trouble started because the demonstrators were “rained” with stones from the Budget building and that the students simply retaliated. At about a quarter past seven, some demonstrators lifted a police outpost and with it tried to ram Gate 4. Failing in this attempt, they positioned it near the gate, poured gasoline on it and set it afire. (Gasoline was being bought or seized from the Shell station at the corner of J. P. Laurel and Arlegui streets). Shortly afterwards, someone set off the fire alarm at the corner of Mendiola and J. P. Laurel Streets. In a few minutes, MFD Fire Truck No. 10 from Sta. Mesa was at the scene. Upon reaching J. P. Laurel in front of St. Jude Church it trained its water hose on the crowd in an attempt to disperse it. The demonstrators pelted it with stones in turn. The firemen tried to defend themselves with the water hose but the water pressure was insufficient and the truck was quickly seized by the demonstrators. They broke the windshield and other parts and then rushed it to ram Gate 4. This time they succeeded – Gate 4 gave way. The truck and its passengers entered the compound. A few demonstrators rushed in, hurling stones and “molotov cocktails.” The PSA and the Metrocom North Sector stationed in the compound, then moved to repel them by firing blank bullets and exploding tear gas bombs. Before they could drive out the demonstrators however, the latter succeeded in setting on fire a government vehicle and part of the fire truck, as well as damaging many building windows and several other vehicles.

By 8:00 p.m., Gate 4 was recaptured. A few arrests were made – and a lull of almost one hour ensued. It seemed as if the rallyists were now about to disperse. But then reinforcement from Central Sector and Reaction Strike Force arrived and the troopers undertook to clear J. P. Laurel street (up to St. Jude Church at one end and up to the vicinity of Gate 3 at the other), and Mendiola street up to Concepcion Aguila, (the street between San Beda and the Holy Spirit College). On Arlegui, the South Sector in turn pushed the demonstrators up to P. Casal Street. All this was done with great roughness and was accompanied by violent skirmishing with the demonstrators. There was excessive and indiscriminate beating and bludgeoning of all the demonstrators in sight and within reach at this stage. It was also during this retreat down Mendiola that the rallyists burned a parked jeep. A second lull followed. When the crowd had been pushed up to the vicinity of the bridge, the other section of the demonstrating crowd – the one in the vicinity of the main gate was now getting restless and uneasy. Many of them now wanted and were prepared to go home . But the word got around that they were trapped in – that the other exits on the western side of J. P. Laurel, and on San Rafael/ Arlegui had been blocked by Metrocom troopers. The suggestion came that the best way out was Mendiola. There was therefore a mass exodus shortly before ten o’clock towards Mendiola which by now had been more or less cleared up to San Beda by the Metrocom elements.

The troopers allowed the demonstrators coming from the main gate, said to be some 2,000 in number, to pass unimpeded to Mendiola. The Metrocom claims however that when these newcomers joined up with the “stragglers” on Mendiola street, a new burst of violence erupted. The Metrocom troopers and MPD policemen who lined up across Mendiola street between San Beda and Centro Escolar University in order to contain the crowd they had pushed beyond the Concepcion Aguila point, now had to withdraw to a new line near the Holy Spirit College to avoid being sandwiched between the demonstrators on either side.

The crowd was again being pushed towards Mendiola bridge. Some were able to escape to Tuberias through small alleys to Claro M. Recto. Others sought refuge in San Beda College while still others were welcomed into nearby houses. Further reinforcements had now arrived from Philippine Army, the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Navy headquarters. Reinforcements all the way from the provinces by now had also arrived in Manila – Task Force Lawin and certain other units.

The troopers were now concentrating their efforts on the Mendiola Bridge area where the great bulk of students all the way to Recto and Legarda were. Possession of the bridge apparently changed hands twice as the infuriated crowd reacted to the police action. At this point shots began to be fired. The Metrocom claims they were shots upward – into the air. And this was confirmed by the radio commentator covering the rally (ABS-CBN radio tape). But the fact is that several demonstrators were hit by bullets, some fatally. Demonstrators caught were moreover beaten up, made to go through a gauntlet of blows before being boarded on to a truck for detention at the PES compound. The troopers and the police were clearly on a rampage, too.

At one point the demonstrators tried to stem the advance of the soldiers by positioning a Yujuico bus on Mendiola bridge. But this could at best only delay the advance of a far superior force. Soon the troopers had gained the bridge and were clearing the intersection of Recto, Legarda and Mendiola. This they were able to do in great part by the simple expedient of using firepower. The soldiers fires in the air but they also fired at the ground right in front of the line of massed demonstrators. The bullets and splinters of the pavement would ricochet upwards and hit some of the demonstrators in the legs and other parts of the body. As many began to fall bleeding, the crowd was forced to retreat in panic and confusion, stopping only to pick up the wounded. Nevertheless, infuriated by this use of superior force, some demonstrators continued pelting the troopers and the police, burning government property within reach but, significantly, sparing private property in the vicinity.

Outside the perimeter of actual confrontation however other elements, probably not actual demonstrators, took the commotion as a license to commit acts of vandalism, thievery and robbery in places as far away from the stricken sector as Avenida Rizal near Funeraria Paz and the Odeon Theater and the Plaza Miranda/ Lacson Underpass Area. But these incidents, while many, were isolated and clearly not part of any design to sow general confusion and disorder.

The disturbance finally quieted at around 3:00 a.m. of Saturday morning, January 31. Casualties reported on Saturday’s papers listed three dead (Ricardo Alcantara, Fernando Catabay and Felicisimo Roldan, all students) and over a hundred injured, many seriously. Two among the wounded died later. Alcantara was shot near the San Beda College gate, Catabay, between the Centro Escolar University and San Beda, while Roldan was shot in front of the Centro Escolar University.

Findings and Observations

1. The observations above-made on the demonstrations and riot control in general apply of course to the demonstration of January 30.

2. There can be no doubt that the demonstration of the 30th was a direct offshoot of the police brutality employed to break up the demonstration of the 26th.

3. While in the demonstration of the 26th the role of law enforcement was predominantly filled by the Manila Police, in that of the 30th, it was carried out principally by units of the Metrocom and the Philippine Constabulary.

4. The immediate cause of the outbreak of trouble is difficult to establish. The demonstrators claim that they were provoked by stone-throwing from inside the Malacañang compound. This claim appears to be corroborated by the radio announcer, Ronny Nathaniel of the radio unit of Channel 13, who on the spot reported the stone- throwing and complained that he himself had been hit. Moreover it seems well established that the lights along the Malacañang fence were left unlit despite the fall of darkness, an ominous circumstance that also added to the tension. The demonstrators feared the darkness could be intended as a cover for attacks on them from the agents of law enforcement.

5. Whatever way the trouble may have started, the fact that stones were hurled from the Malacañang side is well- established. Whether they were thrown before or after the outbreak of trouble may not be clear but the fact that stones were thrown from Malacañang, either by the troopers themselves or at the very least with their approval, is inexcusable.

6. The demonstrators on the other hand were definitely in an uglier mood than on the 26th. The actions of the demonstrators in front of Gate 4 particularly, cannot be condoned. Seizing public property like the guardhouse outside the gate and burning it was an unlawful act and is punishable by law. Exploding “Molotov cocktails” and home-made bombs let alone stone- throwing, was equally lawless and highly reprehensible. Seizing the fire-truck and ramming it against the gate, breaking the gate open and destroying window panes of adjacent government buildings are all actions that must be strongly condemned and deplored. They contribute in no way to the cause for which the demonstrators fight but detract from it and diminish it, while also alienating the mass of whatever public sympathy there may be for their demands. The country is not in that stage where such acts on a sustained scale might be justified. There are still alternatives to violence to achieve reforms desired. The young man, be he university student, worker, or farmer, who really loves his country and who genuinely wants to see reforms effected in his society will not resort to methods that only serve to alienate the public sympathy he so critically needs to attain his objective. The youth who deliberately perpetrates acts of violence at a demonstration doe not really want the reforms he claims to stand for. He either wants something else which he is not honest enough to publicly announce or is nothing more than a delinquent guising as a crusader.

7. But the law enforcement agencies again showed lack of imagination in dealing with the emergency. The evidence shows that there was at least one long lull of about an hour, after Gate 4 was “recaptured”, at which point, according to the testimony of some rallyists, the demonstrators seemed about to disperse. But the Metrocom instead of facilitating the dispersal by clearing the exits on Aviles (in front of St. Jude’s Church), San Miguel, Arlegui and Mandiola, had reinforcements from Central Sector and Reaction Strike Force come in thereby alarming the demonstrators anew. This signaled the start of the charging and skirmishing (not excluding the firing of guns) down Mendiola street up to the bridge.

8. When the Gate 4 crowd had been pushed up to the Mendiola bridge, things quieted down again. But the law enforcers committed the second mistake of diverting the Gate 2 and 3 crowd, which had been comparatively pacific and wanted to go home, to Mendiola to join the already resentful group waiting at the bridge, when they could have had them disperse on the San Miguel side. It is true that some of the Gates 2 and 3 crowd could have joined the Mendiola group after passing through the San Miguel exit but the bulk of them, judging from the fact that they had been generally quiet and desired to go home, would probably have really gone home. What the law enforcers did was in effect to force this entire mass of about 2,000 to join the more aggressive group at Mendiola. The result was the deterioration of the tense situation into real violence and finally, tragedy. Ninety four demonstrators and by-standers were injured, thirty six suffered gunshot wounds and six died of bullet wounds.

9. The truth of the matter seems to be that as on the 26th the police and the military had overreacted to a situation. The Committee can not share the military’s fear that a takeover of Malacañang was contemplated. They made much of the fact that the rallyists flew the Philippine flag with the red side turned up, a circumstance which we are inclined to dismiss as an expression of youthful exuberance rather than real sinister and aggressive intent. Actions like this and like the wearing of Mao Tse Tung pins, display of Ho Chi Minh posters, reading and possession of Communist books are ordinary forms of protest common to youth movements all over the world. They are not signs of the revolution with which the military may be pre-occupying itself over much.

10. What does not seem to have struck the law enforcement agencies was that the demonstrators were not armed. Not a single firearm has been claimed to have been discovered on a demonstrator. How then justify the military’s resort to firepower, aimed at first upward but later directly at the ground a few feet before the crowd? This was inexcusable conduct on the part of the military that should be thoroughly investigated and punished.

11. There was no plan by the student demonstrators to seize or sack Malacañang. The law enforcers should have realized this from the start. They had MID agents mixing with the crowd who easily could have ascertained that the “weapons” they carried were not adequate for such a mission. And this absence of intent to seize Malacañang should have been confirmed to the military when after Gate 4 was open, there was no attempt on the part of the demonstrators to rush in and over-run the grounds as they surely would have done had there really been such a plan. The excessive belligerence with which the law enforcement agents handled the demonstrators after the Gate 4 incident was therefore uncalled for and the deaths and the maiming wholly inexcusable.

12.  Another noteworthy fact is that the January 30th rally had two phases–one in front of Congress and the other in front of Malacañang and vicinity, that the Congress rally was peaceful without incident (even after the NUSP- NSL withdrew – at 2:00 p.m.) and that the violence broke out where there was a heavier concentration of police and troopers–at Malacañang. The circumstance tends to confirm the belief held by many that the presence of the police and/or the military only helps build up tensions and render the outbreak of violence more likely. On January 29th there also was a rally in front of Congress at which the helmeted law enforcers were conspicuous for their absence. The rally was remarkably peaceful. The rallies subsequent to the 30th also tend to support this theory. It is only when the police confront the demonstrators that violence tends to erupt. #


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