“Manila’s Finest” were all over the university belt last Nov. 25 with their truncheons and shields, and some seemed to be itching for a fight. It must have had something to do with the form of protest chosen by the White Ribbon Movement (WRM) and the Gloria Step Down Movement (GSM) – a “People’s Procession.”
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
“Manila’s Finest” – referring to the Western Police District (WPD) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) – were all over the university belt last Nov. 25 with their truncheons and shields, and some seemed to be itching for a fight as they banged their truncheons on their shields.
But they did not disperse the protesters. This, even as Malacañang’s calibrated preemptive response policy (CPR) entailing a blanket restriction on rallies without permits is still in effect.
The White Ribbon Movement (WRM) and the Gloria Step Down Movement (GSM) were the organizers of the protest action dubbed as “People’s Procession” for truth, justice, and human rights.
“This is a real procession,” said Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance). “But we are not denying that this is also a protest action.”
“It is for truth because to this day there is no truth; justice especially for all those killed, and human rights because oppression is continuous,” said Fr. Joe Dizon, GSM convenor, at a press conference the day before announcing the event.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has long been facing calls for her resignation because of her government’s implementation of what cause-oriented groups describe as “anti-national and anti-people” policies. These calls recently intensified following renewed allegations that she cheated her way to victory in the 2004 election, where she was supposed to have received a fresh mandate three years after being catapulted to power through a popular uprising.
Among the issues against Macapagal-Arroyo pertaining to electoral fraud is the existence of taped conversations between her and an election official (widely believed to be election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano), wherein she is heard instructing a man to rig the polls. Malacañang spokespersons have been reported as saying the issue on what is now known as the “Hello Garci” tapes is now a “closed” issue.
“But how can this issue be closed when the lies continue?” Araullo said during the procession.
Meanwhile, the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) has documented almost 5,000 cases of human rights violations since January 2001, when Macapagal-Arroyo first assumed office. These include over 400 cases of killings of activists, data from the human rights group further show.
As the killings escalate, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration is pushing for an Anti-Terrorism Bill that has been hit by several groups – including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines – for its definition of “terrorism” which may be construed to include legal protest actions in its list of “terroristic” activities.
Before the procession, a number of WRM members attended a mass at the San Miguel Pro-cathedral near Malacañang. The mass was concelebrated by the San Miguel Pro-cathedral’s parish priest, Msgr. Ernesto Cruz; and Fathers Joe Dizon and Rudy Abao.
As the mass was in progress, groups belonging to the GSM assembled and held short prayer actions at three points: the Bustillos church in Sampaloc, Manila; the San Sebastian Church along C.M. Recto Avenue, and Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz. Each group had among its frontliners a priest and prayed the rosary as it marched – making it clear to the anti-riot police that they were facing a mobilization with religious elements.
The protesters, with their frontliners carrying man-sized styrofoam crosses bearing the words “truth,” “justice,” and “human rights” and many of them bearing anti-administration placards, intended to converge at the foot of the Don Chino Roces Bridge which leads to Malacañang Palace. However, they were barred by anti-riot police from setting foot there.
They instead settled for merging near the corners of C.M. Recto Avenue and Nicanor Reyes Street, where they concluded the program. No violent dispersal took place, although there were anti-riot police all around the areas where the protesters assembled. (Bulatlat.com)