The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to exercise “maximum tolerance” in handling rallies and protests.
“In accordance with existing laws and human rights standards, a peaceful dispersal must be lawful, necessary, and proportionate to the purpose,” CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
De Guia said the use of water cannons and the carrying of firearms during non-violent protests are prohibited as she cited the prohibitions outlined in Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 (BP 880) which also requires protesters to secure a permit before holding a protest in a public place.
The call was aired by the CHR after the PNP used water cannons to disperse rallyists last Wednesday, May 25, at the Liwasang Diokno within the CHR compound in Diliman, Quezon City.
The police said that the rallyists attempted to go outside Liwasang Diokno towards Batasang Pambansa. When met with resistance, the police claimed that “a brief scuffle” took place, with protesters kicking the shields of the police. Because of this, they decided to bombard them with water.
On the other hand, protesters claimed that the police used “unnecessary force” against them, which resulted in injuries.
“The CHR is very alarmed by the method of dispersal employed by the police during the protest held by progressive groups in the CHR grounds,” De Guia, a lawyer, said.
“During peaceful protests, police officers are expected to exercise maximum tolerance. This policy requires the avoidance of the use of force and to restrict it to the minimum extent necessary especially when handling non-violent protests,” she said.
She also said the CHR will conduct an investigation regarding the protest “in the pursuit of truth and accountability,” While the CHR does not have police power, it is mandated to monitor rallies and probe alleged violations, she stressed.
“To prevent a similar incident in consecutive rallies, the CHR will communicate with the PNP regarding its initial findings and recommendations. We will also continue to monitor expected protests in relation to the canvassing of votes,” she also said.
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