DAVAO • Philippine President Duterte has said he would "invite for coffee" the police officer who drove the van that ploughed through a crowd of protesters last week outside the United States Embassy in Manila to ask him why he did it.
While maintaining he was not justifying the acts of policeman Franklin Kho, Mr Duterte said the officer - who was caught on video running over some protesters and bumping several others - may have been under stress at the time. Mr Kho had said shortly afterwards he panicked as he feared being mobbed.
Thirty demonstrators and 32 policemen were injured in the clashes, which also saw the authorities fire tear gas and the protesters striking out with batons.
"I will try to talk to him peacefully, invite him for coffee. I will also talk to the activists," Mr Duterte said. "(The policemen) were surrounded by a group of militants." He said no one would run over protesters on purpose.
"Maybe he was under stress. They might have ganged up on him," the President added.
Around 60 policemen, including Mr Kho, were relieved of their duties pending investigation into their roles in the dispersal of the protesters, who were mostly from Sandugo, an alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples who were in the capital to air grievances.
Sandugo co-convenor Piya Macliing Malayao, one of those severely injured, said her group was ready to have a dialogue with Mr Duterte and "clarify the events that transpired during the violent dispersal".
A lawyer assisting the protesters said on Saturday administrative and criminal charges will be filed this week in the Office of the Ombudsman against the policemen involved.
THE PHILIPPINE INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK