“There are police left and right. Who are you serving, those dragons?”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – In spite of security restrictions, road closures and government warnings against foreigners who will join rallies during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, defiant protesters marched today Nov. 19, the second day of the summit, and reached Roxas Boulevard in Manila, a short distance from its venue at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.
Setting off from Liwasang Bonifacio, where many protesters encamped since last night, they plied Taft Avenue, reaching up to Gil Puyat Avenue, where they were blocked as they headed towards Roxas Boulevard.
Chanting “death to imperialism, junk Apec!” protesters clashed with the police, who assaulted them with water cannon. Police eventually allowed the marchers to hold a program at the site.
“Apec is peddling lies. The world is a better place without Apec,” said Malcolm Guy, secretary general of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). Some delegates to the ILPS fifth assembly also joined the ranks of protesters, defying police threats of deportation.
“Despite its much hyped thrust for an inclusive economy, Apec 2015 was all about promoting the interests of the big global corporations at the expense of the rest of the world,” Teddy Casiño, former lawmaker and now spokesperson of #PHFightAPEC, said.
The two-day meeting of 20 country leaders, including US President Barack Obama, is set to end to today.
“Bereft of integrated industries and agriculture, the Philippines end up exporting its people and its natural resources. Right now, Chinese, Canadian, Japanese and Australian mining firms are gobbling up entire mountains and foreshore lands. This is one reason the indigenous peoples from Luzon to Mindanao are under attack,” Casiño said.
The protesters burned down a 10-foot vulture effigy at the end of the program.
US role in Apec
In a statement, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. assailed the bilateral meeting between Obama and President Aquino as it aims to support the US pivot to Asia and the return of US bases in the country under the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
“You are so tough when you are up against protesting Filipinos. But when it comes to foreign troops coming to our land to build bases, you welcome them with open arms,” Joms Salvador, Gabriela secretary general, said during the protest.
Reyes said the Philippine government is set to receive a 1967 Hamilton-class cutter, a warship. He decried that its maintenance would cost more than the actual acquisition.
Casiño said there are problems that Apec would rather sweep under the rug “just like how the Philipine government has swept the poor and homeless out of Manila just to impress the Apec delegates.”
During the protest action, Carlito Badion, urban poor group Kadamay secretary general, assailed the illegal detention of street dwellers who are currently at the Boystown facility in Marikina City. The street dwellers were brought there after they were rounded up from the streets of Manila weeks for the international summit.
In a previous report, one of those rounded up told Bulatlat.com he had to jump off from the facility’s fence to escape the dire conditions there, and described the food as “not fit for human consumption.”
Philippine National Police spokesperson Police Superintendent Wilben Mayor said in news reports that the protest actions are illegal as the protesters failed to secure a permit to rally. He also said that the use of water cannon is “less lethal” and that it was meant to cool down protesters.
The water cannon assault on activists went on for about 10 minutes, but the protesters stood their ground as though they were being quenched. Then, the police were met with cheers when the water stopped, as if it seemingly ran out of supply.
“Are you getting your water supply from Maynilad?” one activist quipped, referring to cuts in water supply by the private company.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Rafael Mariano said in an interview that the police is just using “twisted logic” to cover up the rights they violated today. He said that the Aquino administration was in every way seemingly more “prepared” to quell their resistance than to address the needs of survivors of Typhoon Yolanda two years ago.
Reyes, for his part, said this is not a question of whether the use of water cannon is lethal or not, but that the mere idea that one is not free to peaceably assemble as guaranteed by the Constitution is a violation of their rights.
He also assailed the inconvenience that the preparations and the security restrictions for Apec has caused to Filipinos residing in both Metro Manila and neighboring provinces and overseas Filipino workers and other foreign visitors, such as road closures and cancellations of about 1,300 flights.
“It is disgusting,” he said.
Foreign delegates’ solidarity
Despite earlier government warnings, foreign activists were present to observe or join the protest action against Apec.
Palestinian freedom fighter icon Leila Khaled told Bulatlat.com that they were informed of the police pronouncements that foreign delegates who would join protest actions would be “dealt with” later. She quipped, “We do not care.”
“We are fighting the same enemies – imperialists, Zionists, and capitalists. We have every right to be here,” she said.
Khaled, who also spoke during the protest action, said Filipino activists were telling her not go in front as the police were hitting them with water cannon. She dismissed the warnings and instead said that it would be like “taking a shower.”
In Palestine, she said, people are hit not just with water cannons, but with bullets as well. But she added that the people are not afraid to face the military with their bare hands.
“I will convey to our people that we are not alone. Palestinians, like Filipinos, are ready to pay the high price for freedom,” Khaled said.
She said that the voice of the people is always higher than government leaders meeting at the summit.
Other regions blocked
Human rights group Karapatan assailed government efforts in blocking progressives from other regions to join the rally. Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said this is all part of the Aquino government’s effort “to hide the images of extreme poverty and people’s resistance in Metro Manila.”
Palabay related that a contingent from Aurora province was held by the 56th Infantry Batallion in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Soldiers claimed that they were looking for a “criminal” and confiscated the driver’s license without stating any clear violation.
The contingent was once again stopped when spikes were scattered on the high way. Motorcycle-riding men also threw a stone on their bus, breaking its front mirror. When they reached Rizal town in Nueva Ecija, they were held again by authorities who said that the bus is no longer fit to travel.
Activists attempted to get to Manila through bus. But they were told by the drivers that soldiers had forbidden them to take them in as passengers. As a result, the contingent joined the protest action in Cabanatuan instead.
Hacienda Luisita peasant leader Rudy Corpuz said during the protest that their contingent were also blocked on their way to Manila from Tarlac City. He said he only found “means” to get here.
“There are police left and right. Who are you serving, those dragons?” he said.
Karapatan also documented military encampment in Lubuagan, Kalinga and the illegal arrests and detention in Compostela Valley in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, delegates of this year’s Manilakbayan were prevented from joining the ant-Apec protest by a phalanx of policemen and container vans in Redemptorist Church in Baclaran, where majority sought refuge after the Manila local government forced their camp out of Liwasang Bonifacio.