MANILA, Philippines-This time, street protesters are on the side of the police.
Various militant groups marched to Mendiola on Wednesday to protest the government's handling of the botched Mamasapano operation, which left 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) commandos dead.
The groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched from Morayta to Mendiola before heading to the United States Embassy in Manila.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said they want President Benigno Aquino III, suspended PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, and the US government to be held accountable for the bloody clash.
On Jan. 25, 392 members of the SAF clashed with armed members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is pursuing peace talks with the Philippine government, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as they attempted to arrest international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Marwan is on the most wanted terrorists list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
It was revealed that only Aquino and the SAF head knew about the operation while the PNP chain of command was left in the dark.
The lack of coordination, which the President blamed on the SAF head, prevented the military from immediately sending reinforcements to the overpowered group of elite cops.
On the same side?
Reyes said that at the moment, they share the SAF's wish for truth and accountability.
"Everyone-regardless if you're a police or an activist-wants to know what happened, what the truth is, and who should be held accountable," he said in Filipino.
He said they believe that even the police want Aquino to take responsibility for what had happened.
"That is why we continue to encourage them to speak out and express their views on the issue."
He said there have been many times when the police and the ralliers supported each other, such as in the case of the people power uprising.
On the other hand, Police Senior Superintendent Mercelino Pedrozo Jr., head of the District Public Safety Battalion of the Manila Police District, said that while they sympathize with what happened to their SAF colleagues, they still need to block the protesters and protect the embassy.
"We have to maintain peace and order," he said, explaining that they also need to ensure that there is no traffic congestion in the area.
Asked if they will press charges against Aquino and the others responsible for the operation, Reyes said they are still studying the possibility.
He said they disagreed with Malacañang's assertion that Aquino cannot be held criminally liable for what happened.
"It was Aquino himself who violated and committed a crime," he said.
Reyes said the President is "guilty" of allegedly violating the chain of command and assigning Purisima, who is still suspended because of an anomalous contract, to direct the operation, thereby violating the Ombudsman's suspension order.
He said Aquino was also unable to inform concerned officials such as Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and PNP office-in-charge Leonardo Espina.
"To the men in uniform, we urge you to continue to speak out and join protests against the Aquino regime that has betrayed you. You can help counter the Aquino cover-up and bring out the truth on what really happened in Mamasapano," Reyes said.