Rallyists ‘political statement’-A A +A
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
THE scene was akin to a matchstick scraping a matchbox striker: rallyists and a phalanx of anti-riot policemen in a shoving bout on Commonwealth Ave., two kilometers from the Batasang Pambansa Complex where President Noynoy Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address Monday (July 23). A flame was ignited, and violence erupted.
The scene was almost like the one in front of Camp Sergio Osmeña in the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship. Hundreds of rallyists filled one lane of that portion of Osmeña Blvd. that passes the camp, which was then the regional HQ of the Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP). To provide breathing space to the HQ gate, an anti-riot team began pushing the protesters away using their oversized shields.
The protesters shoved back the constables. The shoving match became intense, soon accompanied by a few truncheon blows from one side and placard sticks smacks from the other side. Then all hell broke loose.
I was with the group of farmers who purposely went down from the Cebu City hinterlands to join the protest action. When stones started flying, we did the next best thing, which was to run. The speed of our running got even faster when we heard shots being fired. A few of us stopped near the Community hospital to survey the situation.
Retreating protesters and pursuing anti-riot team members were engaged in a stone throwing battle. It was there that I learned the value of feinting, which looked like this: by throwing a stone upward, the rallyists forced the pursuers to raise their shields up to cover their heads. That left open for some hits the lower portion of their bodies.
I could not recall now how many were arrested and how many were injured in that altercation of more than two decades ago. But in the recent Commonwealth Ave. encounter, reports say at least 16 protesters (the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan pegged the number at 95) and 19 policemen were hurt. Some media people were also injured. Two government vehicles were damaged in the incident.
“Nabali man ang sitwasyon,” I said while watching the six o’clock news on TV after the melee. “Sa una, ang gubot mahitabo kay ang anti-riot squads gusto mobungkag sa raliyista. Karon, ang raliyista nay gusto mobungkag sa barikada sa anti-riot police.”
An editor answered: “So mas isog sila karon kay ninyo sa una?” “Mas desperado tingali,” I muttered.
There should be no shame in fighting back if the purpose is to resist tyranny. During the martial law years every street demonstration was suppressed until Cebuanos started asserting their rights in the early to middle ‘80s. Dispersals and arrests only emboldened protesters to hold more and bigger rallies. Soon, protesters learned to hit back when attacked. The tyrant gave up.
I would say, though, that watching the Commonwealth Ave. altercation was a bit difficult for me on some counts.
There was street protest veteran Satur Ocampo claiming that the rallyists’ action was a “political statement” not because they were not allowed to rally but just because they were not allowed to get close to the Batasang Pambansa complex where the Sona was held. And there were those footages showing rallyists destroying a truck and a police car.
Times, indeed, have changed.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 25, 2012.