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Crying Cop Joselito Sevilla at P-Noy's SONA

The poignant picture of an anti-riot policeman seen flashing peace sign at onrushing demonstrators was something unexpected and later on seen crying was even more bizarre.

The crying policeman was Joselito Sevilla assigned in Marikina and his first time to be deployed in crowd control. All that drama was the outcome of a confrontation or getting confronted by a visiting foreign human rights activist from Ultrecth, Netherlands named Thomas van Beersum a delegate of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.

It was just amazing how the lahing api at inaapi reacts to the drama complete with xenophobic rants against Thomas van Beersum and yet fails to see the significance of what transpired. Is this a sign that there is hope in our police force of getting humanized or was it just the colonial mentality and the lahing api syndrome that's made Sevilla's tears flow but not exactly like Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven?

What is interesting to note is how people in social media reacts with their xenophobic rants and as usual highly partisan manner wherein a Caucasian is seen as the colonizer once again, LOL.Lost in the maze of it all is the violent dispersal and those that got hurt and arrested in the process.

Anyway, the open letter penned by Thomas van Beersum should enlighten us on the event or most probably heighten the discourse. Does it make sense or does the hate reaction that Thomas is getting quite a lot  make any sense at all?

July 23, 2013 at 5:10am

To Policeman Joselito Sevilla,

I was the foreign protester who was actively denouncing to you the violence used against the activists yesterday at the SONA Protest. I was one of the 41 injured activists in the protest. Many of the injured received head wounds and contusions, two of the injured were senior citizens. They were attacked simply because they exercised their constitutional right to assemble and protest.

I came to the Philippines as part of an International Solidarity Mission and as a delegate of the International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines. I attended the SONA protest because I had been outraged by the human rights violations committed by the corrupt Aquino regime. I am tired of the extrajudicial killings, the illegal arrests, the forced demolitions, the land-grabbings, the puppetry to US-imperialism, tired of all the oppression and exploitation of the workers, farmers, students, women, indigenous, urban poor, LGBTs, and all other oppressed groups. I have integrated here in the Philippines with many different sectors to directly see the effects of the basic problems that the Filipino people face. I personally knew people like Willem Geertman, a Dutch community worker who moved to the Philippines, who was brutally murdered by this regime last July 3, 2012. Many of the protesters have many experiences with family members, friends, and acquaintances who have been murdered or tortured by this regime. They had every reason to demonstrate against the Aquino government.

It was by chance that I was facing you. Just before our encounter I was part of the group of peaceful protesters in the front who were beaten with police truncheons. We did not carry any weapons, we only had our banners and flags. After that initial confrontation I got angry and started shouting at the police officer standing in front of me. That police officer happened to be you. I continued to ask you why the police was beating and hurting us. Your response was flashing a peace sign while saying "relax, relax". While you were doing this, a few metres away from us the police was again beating the activists. I started pointing at the attack and shouted "You are the ones that are hurting us! You started this conflict! Why are you doing this?". At this point you started getting emotional and I responded by repeating again and again the question why they were doing this. During your crying you responded to me that you were only following orders. My initial reaction was that this was a legitimization of the violence and a way to absolve yourself of any complicity in the incident. "take responsibility" I repeated over and over.

Then there was a stand-off while negotiations with the police were taking place. We were told to wait for the results. However, even before the results of the negotiations were made known, the second wave of the dispersal started to happen. Our side stayed calm while your side started coming closer and closer. It was obvious that they wanted to start a commotion on our side, which would give them a reason to start attacking the activists with full force. Despite my rage, I remained nonviolent and even put my arms behind my back to show clearly who was the attacker and who was the target. The police started to push us away but I did not see you joining them. You stayed at the same place, crying behind your shield. I was wondering whether you did not attack us because you were overwhelmed of the situation, or if you had a genuine realization about who was causing this excessive use of repressive violence. I did not have long to think about this because I got taken to the back of the protest by comrades who were afraid that the police would be out to arrest me. I tried to look for you after the clashes to have a talk with you, but you were nowhere to be found.

I write this letter because unlike the other police at the protest, you did not act violently like your mates and you did not attack us. You did what you thought was right. You were confronted with the repressive character of the police and did not follow the orders of your superiors. This is a noble act. Historically, the role of the police force is to suppress any type of resistance that has the potential to truly threaten the status quo. I hope you realize that when you follow orders that are detrimental to the people, you become complicit in the crimes that are carried out. If you are really genuine about resisting when it is right, if you really want to serve the people, then you should know that when you take orders, you have a choice and a moral responsibility to refuse to carry out any type of anti-people acts, because when you do choose to carry them out, you are complicit in the crimes that are carried out.

You alone are responsible for your actions. I hope to see you again next year, during the SONA protest of 2014. But then I hope that we will be on the same side. Together against the crimes of the state and against the violent forces that exist purely to defend that state. Together in upholding the interests of the Filipino people.

Take your responsibility and join the people's movement.

Thomas van Beersum

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Some people are upset over this incident and calling for Thomas van Beersum's deportation but what I am wondering is how come there seems to be a deafening silence on the violence inflicted on protesters?


SELDA senior citizen member 77-year-old Rodolfo del Rosario suffered head injuries when the PNP units tried to disperse the protesters. He is one of many injured, including Ka Tonying Flores, also a senior citizen, member of KMP and Anakpawis.

This video shows clearly how the PNP units rushed the protesters and did their beatings:
Press Statement
23 July 2013

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, SELDA chairperson 0917-5616800

We at SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) condemn the Philippine National Police for seriously hurting one of our leaders and other protesters in the rally that coincided with Pres. Aquino’s 4th State of the Nation Address yesterday. It is reprehensible that those fought the Marcos dictatorship and who paved the way to where Aquino is right now, suffer the same police terror not unlike the martial law days.

77-year old Rodolfo “Ka Rody” del Rosario, former political prisoner during martial law and vice-chairperson of the SELDA NCR chapter, suffered from head injuries after police hit him with a nightstick. He was at the frontlines of the People’s SONA ng Bayan that asserted, in a clear exercise of their right to assemble and to protest, to get near Batasang Pambansa where Aquino’s SONA was held.

SELDA members, imprisoned and tortured during Martial Law, attended the SONA rally to emphasize that no justice has been served for the victims of human rights violations. This is now Aquino’s 4th SONA, and after countless letters, lobbying efforts and rallies, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act signed last February 25 remains ineffective and stagnant. Martial Law victims have yet to be recognized.

We demanded justice not only for us victims of human rights violations. We demanded justice for the greater majority of the Filipino people who continue to struggle for their most basic human rights. Yet, Aquino’s “inclusive growth” only pushed further the rights of the people to food, shelter, healthcare, education, land and livelihood to the sidelines.

The People’s SONA yesterday was a testament of the people’s right to express their discontent because their basic rights are violated.

Only the few rich and powerful , who bleed the people dry, enjoy the so-called growth. These are the same group of elites who are favored by the Aquino government’s policies, at the expense of the people who bear the burden of high prices, privatization of services, meager wages, forced eviction, landlessness and the overall crisis passed on to us by Aquino’s imperialist masters.

We protest the denial of a permit to rally, the use of concertina wires, the blocking of the roads with container vans and fire trucks; the truncheon-bearing police who mercilessly hit the protesters, the illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention and the wounding of rallyists—literally the same scene and horror during the times of the dictatorship.

We demand that the PNP be made accountable for the violence that ensued in yesterday’s rally. We also demand justice and accountability for the illegal arrests and detention made by the police.

We deplore the statements made by the Commission on Human Rights, which instead of ensuring that the police do not use force against the activists, irresponsibly maligned the protesters by saying it is the protesters’ fault that the police used violence against them.

By our collective action, we were able to topple down a dictator. We were able to assert our democratic rights as a people. Amid the dire conditions of the Filipino people, we shall continue to march the streets and tell the real state of the nation and fight for justice for the marginalized and oppressed Filipino people. ###

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) is an organization of former political prisoners in the Philippines. Founded on December 4, 1984, SELDA was initiated by newly-released political prisoners of the martial law period. SELDA’s primary task is to work for the release of all political prisoners and to see to it that humane treatment of those who are still in detention are complied with by the Philippine authorities. SELDA advocates justice for current and former political prisoners. It calls for the mobilisation of resources in support of political prisoners, former detainees and their families. It carries out legislative advocacy for the indemnification and rehabilitation of political prisoners. SELDA goes into partnership and builds solidarity with concerned individuals and groups for the freedom and welfare of political prisoners and all victims of tyranny.

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