13 cops hurt in clash with rallyists at University of Southern Mindanao

KABACAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 13 Feb) – Thirteen cops, all assigned at the Cotabato Provincial Police Office (CPP0), were injured when they engaged in a scuffle rallyists outside the campus of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) here around 3 a.m. today (Wednesday), a police official said.

Sr. Supt. Danny Peralta, CPPO director, said their men were sent to the university located along the USM Avenue in the Poblacion to open the main gate so that the 12,000 college students and teachers can enter the school premises today.

“But they were met with so much force and violence by the protesters so they also had to protect themselves,” said Peralta.

Of the 13 injured cops, seven of them were sent to the Kabacan Medical Specialist Center. They were identified as Ronald Abayasa, Bryan Valdez, Danilo Saburnito, Gerald Taniala, and Elmer Dizon, all with a rank of Police Officer 1; and Richard Balyesta and John Concepcion, both Police Officer 2.

Supt. Leo Ajero, chief of the Kabacan PNP, said most of their men sustained injuries from stones thrown by the protesters and wood with nails on it.

The police arrested four rallyists after they recovered from them bladed weapons.

Ajero said they immediately detained the suspects inside the police station while charges are being prepared.

Dr. William dela Torre, one of the co-conveners of the USM Multi-Stakeholders Movement for Truth and Justice, the group leading the protests since January 14, cried “foul” and considered as “police brutality” the attempt of the authorities to disperse the rallyists.

“What I know was that the request of (USM President) Dr. Jess Derije was to open the entrance gate.  But why did they destroy many of the placards and tarpaulins placed there? They also destroyed the tires of some of the tricycles parked near the gate. That is what we call police brutality,” said Dela Torre.

Ajero, however, denied the allegations that there was a dispersal of the protesters, saying instead that what the latter did was a “show of their brutality”.

“That’s not fair.   It’s not true.   That’s what the rallyists are saying.   But what do we call their act of violence towards us?  Is it not brutality?   We sent our men there to make sure the main gate would be opened to everyone.   But we were met with violent opposition.   The tarpaulins and the placards were destroyed because these were placed on the gate,” said Ajero.

He said they have to immediately order their men to pull out to prevent further violence and worst, bloodshed.

After the police left, Dela Torre said the rallyists were again able to get hold of the USM’s entrance gate. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)