SWAT assault on Iloilo radio station an assault on basic rights

NUJP Statement
Aug. 27, 2013

The assault by heavily armed members of the Iloilo City police’s Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) unit on radio station Aksyon Radyo early Sunday morning, and the subsequent justification by chief of police Ruperto Floro that the heavy-handed tactics employed by his men was “standard operating procedure” are proof that, for all their profuse claims, state security forces continue to have no inkling of what human rights are and what their role in a democracy is.

Video footage of the incident, captured on the radio station’s CCTV, clearly shows the following:
• No resistance on the part of the station personnel or the security guards who were with them
• Full compliance with the policemen’s orders
Why then, we ask, did the policemen kick and manhandle an unarmed security guard who had clearly complied with their orders to lie on the floor and why, after aiming their guns at the station’s personnel, did they order the men to take off their shirts?
Why, too, did the policemen delete the video taken by engineer Bem Abentino on his mobile phone?
And why did they, in their “tactical search” of the station, include the personal belongings of station staff?
We may accept that the SWAT members were taking precautions in the belief that they were going after armed suspects who had been involved in a nearby shooting incident. In fact, the CCTV does show seven youths who sought shelter in the building housing the radio station and the Zuellig Pharma office, and who were later taken into custody by the police.
But it also should be noted that it was personnel of Aksyon Radyo, specifically Salvador “Jun” Capulot, who alerted police to the presence of the youth, a number of whom were wounded.
Surely, the SWAT team should have been aware of this. Or if not, they should have as soon as the Aksyon Radyo personnel readily opened the station entrance and introduced themselves.
Why, then, did the SWAT personnel continue to treat them as suspects when they were clearly cooperating and, after they had introduced themselves, were obviously not the dangerous suspects the police may have thought them to be at first?
And why kick and manhandle the guard, even granting he may have been a suspect, when he was clearly complying with their orders and was not a threat?
The deletion of the cell phone video without the owner’s permission is a clear assault on press freedom and, in fact, could very well be a criminal offense – destruction of evidence.
But even more than this, the whole sorry affair is a gross violation of the very constitutionally guaranteed human and civil rights that the police are supposedly sworn to uphold.
Which is why the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines demands that the Philippine National Police impose the maximum sanctions possible against these thugs masquerading as law enforcers and their superiors for deigning to justify their brutal behavior.


Rowena Paraan