Imagine for a second being hit on the chest by a hulking water canon -- booming, fierce and ruthless. Here in the Philippines, this is what the police forces use to disperse protesters during rallies and defiant residents in demolitions of urban poor communities.
I have not experienced it but I can only imagine the pain. It must be suffocating, blinding to the eye, drowning and needless to say, painful in the lungs. But why do these policemen continue to use this? They believe it is one non-lethal tool for dispersing protesting elements. But shouldn't the government be looking for more permanent solutions to address the problem? A protest rally for instance always has valid reasons -- be it rising oil prices, skyrocketing tuition increases or the most basic need to protect one's homes.
Last Tuesday, January 25, 2011, I witnessed how police forces mercilessly used water canons to disperse residents in an urban poor community that was to be demolished by the government. It happened in a community which is said to have some 8,000 residents here in Barangay Corazon de Jesus in San Juan, a city in the eastern part of the Philippine capital region of Metro Manila. The city is governed by the son of a former Philippine president who trumpets a pro-poor agenda. There was no way the residents could win. They ended up hurt, drenched, cold and hopeless. The human barrier they formed was no match to the fury of the water canon. In seconds, they were gone in all directions as they ran for safety. Readers interested in the rest of the story may see more photos and videos here and here.
Would the police ever realize that there is much more than water can be used for than for hurting innocent lives?
(Photo by the author)