MANILA,  JUNE 10, 2004
By Non Alquitran and Katherine Adraneda  -  Anti-riot police and combat troops dispersed yesterday some 3,000 supporters of opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. as they tried to break through a phalanx of policemen guarding the route to the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

In a separate encounter, police stopped five jeepneys carrying Poe fans from San Juan who were apparently also on their way to the Batasan to meet up with their comrades.

One of the rallyists was arrested in the dispersal along University Avenue.

Danny Rodriguez, a member of the Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice, was detained at the Quezon City police’s Criminal Investigation Unit for illegal assembly.

Spearheaded by the People’s Movement Against Poverty (PMAP), the marchers were bombarded with water from fire trucks as they were about to turn left from the University of the Philippines campus to Commonwealth Avenue, leading to the legislature.

In San Juan, a phalanx of anti-riot policemen blocked five jeeploads of Poe supporters along Araneta Avenue as they were entering Quezon City from the hometown of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

Police ordered the Poe supporters to return to San Juan, where they had been holding a prayer vigil at the Pinaglabanan Shrine.

At Agham Road and East Avenue in Quezon City, police also stopped an undetermined number of pro-Poe rallyists from marching to the nearby Quezon Memorial Circle where some 1,000 comrades have been holding a prayer vigil.

Police closed at around 4:30 p.m. eight of the nine gates of the Quezon Memorial Circle, leaving open only the entrance facing the Philippine Coconut Authority building.

Police said the four groups of rallyists had planned to rendezvous at a point in Commonwealth Avenue near the Batasang Pambansa.

Rodriguez was arrested after the rallyists reportedly stoned anti-riot policemen when they tried to grab Ver Eustaquio, national chairman of Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice.

Eustaquio’s comrades were able to snatch him from the police during the ensuing commotion, but government troops nabbed Rodriguez.

Led by Eustaquio, the protesters assembled at University Avenue at 2 p.m., and after an hour marched towards Elliptical Road near Quezon City Hall.

Anti-riot police stopped them before they could join link up with other pro-Poe rallyists at the Quezon circle.

Eustaquio and other rally leaders tried to negotiate with police to allow them to proceed to the park.

But police officials were adamant that no rally will be allowed without a permit from the Quezon City government.

Metro Manila police commander Director Ricardo de Leon said police will not hesitate to disperse any anti-government rally, especially those without a permit.

"We will strictly enforce the no-permit, no-rally rule in the metropolis," he said in a telephone interview.

The Metro Manila police force is ready for any rally, be these pro- or anti-government, he added.

De Leon said he had appealed to the rallyists to peacefully disperse after they failed to present a permit from the Quezon City government.

"We dispersed them at 3 p.m., with water cannons and a scuffle ensued," he said. "We were able to arrest one of their leaders."

De Leon said he has activated Super Task Force Kapayapaan and mobilized anti-riot policemen from Metro Manila’s five police districts to secure the Batasang Pambansa where Congress is canvassing the votes for president and vice president.

"All task groups are backed up by enough number of police and military trucks for enhanced mobility in case of rapid deployment," he said.

However, lawyer Dandy Tupaz, adviser of the Freedom, Peace and Justice Movement (FPJM), said their gathering at the Quezon Memorial Circle was not aimed at causing disorder.

"You can’t stop the truth from coming out," he said. "We will generate one million people but not this time. For now, we are here to pray for peace, for the truth. The one million (people) will come out at the right time."

Tupaz said they planned to stay at the park until 10 p.m. yesterday.

The management of the Quezon Memorial Circle had allowed them to use its facilities for the day, he added.

However, police said they would not allow them to remain there and that they would be dispersed before dark.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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