Ateneans Denounce Police 'Intimidation' at Anti-EJK Protest
On August 24, Thursday night, students and faculty gathered at Gate 2.5 of Ateneo de Manila University to protest the murder of Kian delos Santos, as well as other extra-judicial killings committed during the Duterte administration's war on drugs.
According to a report by The Guidon, they had just lit candles and held a moment of silence at 8:24 p.m., marking the exact time of Kian's death, when two uniformed officers alighted from a black police cruiser. The vehicle had no license plate, but was marked "QCPD-237" on its body.
To allay the students' fears, a faculty member approached the officers, who proceeded to question her on the purpose of the rally and the names of its leaders. She refused to reveal the identities of any of the organizers.
The understandably uneasy protesters promptly packed up and dispersed. However, the officers remained outside the gate until 9:00 p.m. When asked whether they were able to note the policemen's names and faces, the campus security guards stationed at the gate said that the policemen had turned away.
According to Atty. Jackie de Guia, spokesperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the police did not have the right to ask for the organizers' names. "We have a law on that: Batas Pambansa Blg. 880. It guarantees the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances," she explains. "And it's clearly provided there that a permit is not necessary whenever assemblies are conducted within school premises. Even if for example, assuming the rally is in question, the police don't have enough grounds to ask people for their identities especially if the rally is peaceful."
De Guia also states that the use of a vehicle without a license plate violates the rules stated in the Philippine National Police Manual of Operations. "It's really a bit irregular for them to have asked people for their identities and stayed there. While they can monitor the peace and order situation, it does not entail having to ask all those things, especially since nothing untoward was happening."
If you find yourself being questioned by a policeman at a rally (or in any situation), here's what you should do:
- Ask why you are being questioned.
You have the right to be informed of the nature of the accusations being held against you, and this includes the grounds on which you are questioned by the police—especially if the officer is trying to obtain personal details.
- Do not feel compelled to give them your name.
Refusing to reveal your identity to the police is within your prerogative. "If there's no charge or there is no act being committed which is contrary to the law, then there is no reason for the police to do anything," de Guia says.
- Stay calm and be courteous at all times.
The last thing you want is to aggravate the situation by ticking the police off. If you decide to record the encounter or broadcast it over Facebook Live, make sure the manner in which you do so is not offensive. "It can also be a deterrent because the police know they are being recorded," de Guia adds. "If it's taken in manner that is not offensive, then they don't have any reason to object afterwards."
- Get in touch with the local police afterward.
As counterintuitive as this sounds, it's best to report the incident so that it can be addressed and any misunderstandings can be sorted out. "In this case, it's best that the school engage with the local police so that they can further discuss what transpired," de Guia says. "Of course, on our part we heard about this and in our meeting next week with the Philippine National Police, it shall be one of the matters [discussed] because it also concerns us."
- Refuse any "invitations" to go to the police station.
The moment you're in the police station, you're under the officers' control. If the police try to compel you to go with them, call your lawyer and notify your family immediately. If you can't afford a lawyer, you have the right to demand for one from the police. You can also call the CHR at (02)294-8704—they've partnered with organizations like Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Centerlaw, and Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism (MABINI) to provide legal assistance. "Do not fight anything unless there's a lawyer and you fully understand what is being asked from you," de Guia says. "Remain courteous but also be aware of your rights. You can actually assert those rights."
In this political climate attending protests can seem a bit risky, but we have a right to make our voices heard. After all, protests are part and parcel of a healthy democracy. Under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence, and we can make a stronger stand if we know our rights. For more information, check out these resources:
Republic Act 7438: An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as well as the Duties of the Arresting, Detaining, and Investigating Officers, and Providing Penalties for the Violations Thereof
UPDATE 25 August 2017: On Friday night, Fr. Jett Villarin, president of the Ateneo de Manila, issued a memo to the university community about the events of Thursday evening. The memo says that university officials met with the QCPD police chief superintendent, Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, to clarify matters. Villarin writes: "Gen. Eleazar conveyed his reassurance that the presence of the police yesterday was not meant to intimidate or harass the participants of the mobilization. It was to provide protection and assist in traffic control. He clarified that the police vehicle was newly issued by local government and thus, although registered, had no available plate yet. He apologized if the community felt threatened and unsafe due to their presence." Villarin goes on to say that "The Ateneo and the QCPD promised to work together to ensure proper coordination and communication when such activities are organized...The University takes our police at their word and trusts that they will keep to these agreements."