I’ve covered enough violent dispersals to know that those who get hurt are often from both sides. BUT there is no such thing as equality in the frontlines. Policemen, and my friends in the PNP have to bear with me here, bear a far greater responsibility both for keeping the peace and for exercising restraint.
They are, after all, the state-sanctioned instruments of controlled violence who have the right and responsibility to bear instruments of death and use them when necessary. Secondly, they represent the state, and by extension, they represent you and me. They bear arms in my name. What this means is that, no matter how pissed off they are, or how rowdy the crowd is, they have no right to use their arms just because they are ticked off. As in any police force, they have the right to bear arms, and they have the responsibility to use them properly and according to law. Having said that, the Kidapawan incident is clearly a case of lessons unlearned after all the bloody demonstrations we’ve had post Marcos. The PNP’s own rulebook is clear, The latest iteration of the PNP operating manual on police operations involving demonstrations, issued in 2013, is pretty instructive. Rule 6.3 says that policemen are prohibited from firing warning shots. Rule 25.6 prohibits the carrying of firearms by policemen within 100 meters from the demonstration. Non-lethal weapons and equipment may be used to suppress violence, the manual says. Force is only used in cases of self-defense, and the force has to be justified and calibrated, and only for particular and specific cases. Hindi yung, nagkagulo na, magpaputok na tayo! Paalisin sila, paputukan na natin! Or, mga militante lang naman yan, hindi mga magsasaka. Ratratan na natin! If you listen to the recorded sounds of the dispersal, you would hear PAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAKPAK … parang may encounter na, and not a dispersal. In other words, one does not use firearms in crowd dispersal, regardless of the political affiliations of the crowd. One does not need to be a lawyer or a genius to figure that out. Strangely, the provincial commander, Col. Alex Tagum, argues that his men had to use their guns “to draw out” the demonstrators, whatever that means. If he meant they fired guns to disperse the crowd, that is illegal and illogical. Do you shoot at a crowd to disperse it, really? How can that ever make any sense? And his other argument, captured on television, was that his men were shooting at the ground, which explains daw why you could see puffs of dust where the bullets strike the ground. Anyone who handles firearms would know that if you fire a gun at the ground at a shallow angle, the bullet ricochets or is deflected back upwards.Some combat troops use the technique of skipping bullets off the ground or walls in urban combat. That was one lesson US troops learned in Mogadishu. Is it any wonder that some people were hit, including one bystander who was killed with a bullet to his side? What it boils down to is this… Ang crowd dispersal ay hindi parang rambol ng mga frat, na, uy teka, nalamangan tayo, o, teka, pagkakataon na ito makabawi. Kung gusto ninyo ang kapangyarihan ng armas, akuin din ninyo ang responsibilidad.