A protester on Wednesday belied the claim of the Philippine National Police that violence started from its ranks during the bloody dispersal of a rally in front of the United States Embassy.
In a statement released by Sandugo, Amirah Lidasan said that she was witness to how Senior Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo of the Manila Police District (MPD) ordered his men to ram their patrol vehicle against the protesters.
"We were in the front line of the rally. The protest was about to end when Col. Pedrozo ordered his men to ram their vehicle against us," said Lidasan, secretary-general of Moro-Christian Peoples' Alliance.
Fifty protesters were reportedly hurt during the incident. Lidasan said police nabbed 29 protesters and brought them to the MPD headquarters.
No such orders
Meanwhile, Pedrozo denied he ordered the use of a police vehicle to ram the protesters.
Pedrozo said the protesters were trying to hijack the police vehicle which prompted the driver to maneuver the vehicle away from the site of the anti-US rally.
"Wala po tayong inutos na dispersal, sila [ang] nag-umpisa na manakit ng mga pulis. Gusto lang ng driver ng mobile na ialis ang sasakyan dahil sinisira na ng mga rallyists," he said in a text message to GMA News Online.
"Ang nangyari gusto agawin sa kanya ang mobile, kaya sa kagustuhan niya maialis at makaiwas sa pananakit ng mga raliyista ay iniwas niya ang sasakyan," Pedrozo added.
Pedrozo said the Manila Police District and the legal counsel of the protesters agreed to release 26 prisoners arrested during the rally.
Pedrozo also defended the driver of the police vehicle, saying he only wanted to prevent the vehicle from being vandalized.
"Walang intensyon managasa ang driver. Natakot siya sa dami ng raliyista kaya iniwas lang niya [ang] sasakyan. Gusto lang niya tanggalin ang mobile dahil bukod sa na-vandalize, ay sinisira na nila," he said.
'Hindi sila sinagasaan'
Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde, National Capital Region Police Office director, earlier said the driver of the police van did not intend to run over the protesters.
"Hindi naman sila sinagasaan," Albayalde said in a statement on the violent dispersal at the US Embassy.
"The rallyists were trying to flip over the patrol car. In the process, the driver extricated the patrol car and inadvertently hit some unruly protesters who sustained minor injuries," he added.
Albayalde said 32 police officers were also injured and many of their uniform tainted with paint.
But Lidasan said the police were to blame for the escalation of the incident.
"First they rammed the police vehicle against the people. Then they released tear gas and hit us with truncheons. That's as clear as day," Lidasan added.
"We were about to leave when the violence transpired. It was not called for. It's unjustifiable." — with Joseph Tristan Roxas/JST/RSJ, GMA News