Duterte on police driver who rammed van into U.S. Embassy protesters: It was self-preservation

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Davao City (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte plans to meet with the police officer who rammed a police van into protesters outside the U.S. Embassy last Wednesday. He said on Friday he would also like to meet with the protesters to get to the bottom of the issue.

Duterte said it didn't look like PO3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police mobile, intended to kill protesters. He added Kho may have been under stress and acted on instinct — but clarified he is not justifying the action of the cop.

"I'm not justifying it. Just maybe he was under stress. They might gang up on him, hurt him. So he acted by instinct, self-preservation," he said.

President Duterte said Kho was only driving the vehicle forward and backward, careful not to go through the crowd.

 

The protesters, members of militant group Sandugo, earlier said it is evident in the footage the police vehicle ran forward and backward, ramming into protesters with an "intent to kill or injure."

Duterte said there was a "miscalculation" — the same observation PNP Deputy Chief for Operations police director Benjamin Magalong pointed out when he said there were lapses in preparation from the side of the police.

He also stressed he does not want any police officers nor protesters hurt during such demonstrations, adding police officers should not carry firearms during protests.

The President was in Bejing for his state visit to China when the violent dispersal happened.

NCRPO said on Friday 60 police officers were suspended — 10 relieved, 50 under restrictive custody — over the violent dispersal that left a total of 50 protesters and 34 police officers injured.

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.