Editorial: Reversal of roles-A A +A
Friday, February 1, 2013
THE recent clash between riot policemen and farmers at the offices of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) in Quezon City has given fodder to the view that militants are bent on giving the phrase “protest action” a bad connotation. Video footage of the clash showed farmers mauling a police officer—-not an unprecedented act but a rare occurrence.
Or is it really rare? Because when President Noynoy Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address (Sona) last year, militants who were not allowed to go near the Batasang Pambansa complex where the Sona was held attacked riot policemen and damaged government vehicles.
Former party-list congressman Satur Ocampo later defended the act of the rallyists by describing it as a “political statement.” Their beef was that they were not allowed to get closer to the Sona site.
In the recent altercation, the militants were protesting the alleged misuse by the NAPC and Malacañang of the coco levy funds. Incidentally, the NAPC head is member of the party-list group Akbayan, which is a rival of a militant alliance where the farmers’ organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) belongs.
That issue was drowned by the clash, which the rallyists claimed broke out when policemen attacked them. The police officer was mauled, they said, because he became too aggressive. “We were only defending ourselves,” a farmer said.
The incident prompted the policemen to go to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), something that can be considered a reversal of roles. In previous protest actions that turned violent, the rallyists and not the policemen sought redress from the CHR.
Another “coincidence”: the CHR chairperson is Loretta Ann Rosales, who was once a representative of the party-list Akbayan in Congress.
While rallyists defending themselves from attacks by anti-riot policemen can be considered a legitimate response, going to the extent of mauling law enforcers and damaging properties isn’t. It ups the ante as far as violent confrontations during protest actions are concerned.
Protest actions are primarily aimed at popularizing legitimate concerns and seeking public sympathy. That goal won’t be achieved if protesters are seen as the aggressors in violent confrontations with law enforcers. The public will end up sympathizing with authorities instead.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 02, 2013.