A Response to Thomas van Beersum

Thomas van Beersum confronting PO1 Joselito Sevilla.
Thomas van Beersum confronting PO1 Joselito Sevilla.

The presence of left-wing demonstrators are a common occurrence in the Metropolitan during a State of the Nation Address. Last month’s 4th address by the incumbent Benigno Aquino III was not any different. The militant Bayan party group along with it’s affiliated organizations such as the Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas and women’s group GABRIELA took to the streets in protest. It seldom happens that these demonstrations would take the spotlight away from the exact message from the head-of-state, but last July 22 the attention of the Filipino public was on a ‘crying cop’ and a ‘raging caucasian’ rather than on PNoy.

The intensity of the protests along Commonwealth Avenue in Manila drew attention from the media early on, but the talk of the internet after the SONA was on a viral image of a policeman who was weeping. The story of PO1 Joselito Sevilla, now known as the ‘crying cop’, earned sympathy for the police who stood guard against the rallyists. Sevilla cited his hunger, thirst and exhaustion to be the reason for his breakdown and garnered support from concerned ‘netizens’. But another image surfaced online, this time it caused a furor among Filipinos.

An image of the same police officer, Sevilla, being berated by an obviously angry Caucasian demonstrator who, because of the resourcefulness of Filipino netizens, was revealed to be a certain Thomas van Beersum, a Dutch national. Details of Thomas’ personal life were also divulged, particularly his left-leaning political stance and his alleged ties with Communist Party of the Philippines exiles in the Netherlands. After being exposed, Thomas would later air his side of the story through social media: while the purpose was to alleviate anger through an open letter, the hostility of his words drew further scrutiny from Filipinos.

(You can view Thomas’ open letter here: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/07/23/13/open-letter-crying-cop)

While reading Mr. van Beersum’s open letter, one cannot help but feel a bit flattered that a foreigner would be as concerned as he is for the plight of the poor Filipino. However, one can also point out to a number of flaws in his written piece and the obvious liberal bias as well. The manner which he presented his side was not very convincing as well, much less polite. Mr. van Beersum presented daring arguments that made me question if whether is merely misinformed or if he deliberately poses a bias that would favor his side.


Here is the author’s attempt to sift through the points made by Thomas van Beersum and to air HIS opinion on the ‘open letter’ as well:

Beste Thomas,

How are you? You do not know me but I wish you would take time to read this letter addressing your earlier statement on the incident with PO1 Sevilla. First of all, I would just like to thank you for showing concern for the sad plight of the marginalized in my country. There are not a lot of people like you, foreigners who take time and effort to tend to the needs of others even if they have no obligation for them in the first place. We have a term for people like you, it’s called ‘good Samaritan’. While those acts are usually laudable, there are times when a ‘good Samaritan’ who intends to help instead does the opposite. Let me explain.

I am well aware of your political convictions, as with most liberals you adhere to the teachings of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong. A true leftist. I am not sure of the extent of your knowledge on their political philosophies but as passionate as you are of social issues I would like to believe that you are aware of their history and all the atrocities which they have committed.  I’m sure you know that they all advocate a “protracted people’s war’ or a ‘rise of the masses against the ruling class’. Injustice and social inequality are indeed tumors that ruin humanity, but using violence to treat it is exactly like chemotherapy – while it eradicates the problem it is also slowly killing the host. This struggle being promoted by your heroes is simply too detrimental for our country to be considered; if Filipinos were to take arms always in solving a national issue our scenario would probably be similar to that of Somalia.

Democracy is one of the best gifts from the French Revolution, it is a form of government where a platform exists for all people – regardless of creed, social class, gender, age, etc. – to air their opinions. How great is that? A government by the people for the people. We are lucky today to be a democratic nation, albeit a flawed democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. We are miles behind Netherlands in terms of personal freedom, but light years ahead of North Korea or even Sudan. Public demonstrations is just one of the many privileges of a democratic nation, but while democracy guarantees us the right to express our opinions being unruly or uncivilized is never accepted no matter what the circumstance may be.

PO1 Joselito Sevilla moved to tears by the protest.
PO1 Joselito Sevilla moved to tears by the protest.

From my understanding you, along with your comrades, dismantled police barricades in an attempt to storm the Batasang Pambansa. When you were blocked by our policemen, you pushed your way through until a violent skirmish took place. It is a democratic right to hold demonstrations, but what your group did was an abuse of that right. When your group demolished the barricades established by the police and were pushing yourselves through, what were you trying to achieve? To get nearer to the Batasan Complex? And then what? If there was no police protection afforded for the SONA would your group have stormed the inside of the Batasan?  God knows what else you would do. The scenes of the Moldova parliament attacks come to mind. Your group was afforded the space to protest, why did you find the need to advance? If you stood your ground, the police would have as well. What your group did was called dissent, something civilized people frown upon.

According to accounts by journalists who witnessed your confrontation with PO1 Sevilla, you asked him: “why are you doing this to us?” Well Thomas, there’s your answer. You simply cannot expect to be aggressive towards someone and not expect an aggressive response, not just from men in uniform but from any individual.  When you and your peers broke through the barricades and tried to force your way through the policemen, did you expect them to simply step aside? It is their sworn duty to follow the chain-of-command and they were ordered to protect the President and other lawmakers and personalities inside the Batasan. They had to do everything they could to stop your group. This is surely when the violence started.

A policeman wipes blood off his face upon getting injured during the dispersal.
A policeman wipes blood off his face upon getting injured during the dispersal.

Let’s take a look at the statistics as well, out of the 38 reported injuries during the demonstrations, 21 of them were on the side of the police. How do you argue that? Please don’t deny as well that before the confrontation, the frontline police forces were holding white balloons and flowers – as ridiculous of a deed that is – just to calm your comrades. It seemed to me like the PNP exercised maximum restraint but was provoked by your rabid group of leftists. This links back to my earlier argument that your “good Samaritan” deeds could become harmful. While your intention is to help, since you follow the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principle of a “workers’ class struggle” you obviously deemed that the help necessary was a similar ‘struggle’, a protest action if you may. This does not work. If you had knowledge of my country’s history then you would know that we are a protest-ravaged nation. It is these rallies that cause traffic congestions along the metropolitan’s streets, what drives businessmen away and a massive discouragement for potential investors. But as I have said, public demonstrations are a democratic right. Dissent however, is not.

Indeed, there is a fine line between protest and dissent. In your open letter you have defended your group by citing the numerous injuries accumulated by your comrades. You blame that on the police and the Aquino government you deem ‘corrupt’ yet you do not reflect on the fact that you were just as much to blame due to the hostile manner you approached the authorities. Even the Commission on Human Rights, the independent human rights group that is usually critical of the armed forces sided with the government forces regarding the clashes. Numerous testimonies from media groups narrate your members whack police officers with flagpoles, throw rocks and even punches during the encounters. Please do not say your group were attacked unprovoked.

Thomas and Joma 2
Thomas with CPP founder Joma Sison.

Make no mistake, I am not a PNoy supporter and am critical of the many reforms done by the president. Yet I still rate his administration to be far better than the previous Arroyo and Estrada administrations. Why? Because this time there is a sense of optimism being felt, as reflected in social surveys. The Social Weather Station published that Filipinos had a generally positive outlook on life for 2013, while a Nielsen poll of 58 nations showed that Filipinos have displaced Indians as the world’s second most optimistic of their economy. These are a contrast to surveys from the previous administrations. On the issue of corruption, contrary to your claims a study has actually shown that the Philippines has experienced a lesser incidence of corruption. Transparency International gave the Philippines a score of 3.5 in 2012, with 0 being the lowest mark, compared to 2.4 in Arroyo’s final year as president. A modest increase perhaps, but an increase nonetheless. We were far worse in 2010, but I don’t think you were protesting in our country during that time.

You are also outspoken towards the AFP’s ‘Oplan Bayanihan’, the military’s counter-insurgency program aimed at neutralizing leaders of militant groups, particularly the New People’s Army. The problem with the NPA has been howling our nation for over four decades now, the group claims to help uplift the lives of the rural poor but statistics and personal anecdotes of the poor people they claim to help would say otherwise. What is so uplifting about scaring away investors of plantations and legal mining companies from setting up business, employing potentially thousands of workers? The potential tax the government could collect from these businesses would also help fund several social projects that would legitimately help these marginalized poor. This gives the NPA a good reason to be pursued by law enforcement agents, simply because they cause harm to our country.

Any faction that would hinders this development does not deserve to be accepted into society. In addition to that, the NPA has been accused of fielding child soldiers in battle and employ landmines which can target even civilians. For these reasons, the group has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union. Aligning yourself with the NPA, Thomas, therefore makes you a terrorist yourself. Is this really the stance you want to take?

I appreciate the concern you have for our poor, it is absolutely aligned with the views of most socialists, especially young ones. As the saying goes: if you are a communist before 20, you have a heart but if you are still a communist at 20, you have no brain. Yes, there is a lot of atrocities ongoing which requires drastic action, but I don’t believe as drastic as a communistic government. A proper forum and the proper exercise of one’s democratic rights while within the bounds of the law are what the country needs for change. This type of response is orderly and efficient as well.

We no longer live in the Marcos or Arroyo eras where democracy is suppressed immensely, the Aquino government has given democracy a breath of fresh air in our country. Let us seize this opportunity and exercise our democratic rights to instill change into our country. We do not need an armed struggle or any use of violence or dissent, those days are thankfully over.

You finished your open letter by inviting PO1 Sevilla to ‘join the people’s movement’. You are effectively inviting a government police officer to turn rogue, which is called inciting rebellion. This is illegal in our country, Thomas. Instead of inviting him, I want to invite you instead to join the real people’s movement and to join the ranks of the civilized society that embraces reform through democracy. Then hopefully you won’t be making anyone cry by then.

I hope to see you during the next SONA in 2014, although without a clenched fist or an angry face but a diligent mind ready to listen to a meaningful address by an elected head-of-state.




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