BY ZOFIA LEAL
April 6 is considered a victory for protesters as 3,000 demonstrators managed to reach Don Chino Roces bridge (near Malacañang Palace in Manila) after it has been declared as a “no-rally zone” as part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s calibrated preemptive response (CPR).
The mass action was against charter change that the Arroyo administration is pushing through a people’s initiative. The rallyists also called for the immediate ouster of the President. This was led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), People’s Movement Against Charter Change (People’s March) and Gloria Step Down Movement (GSM).
The protesters gathered at around 10 a.m. at the Sto. Domingo church in Quezon City carrying with them banners and streamers opposing charter change and the Arroyo administration. Militant youth groups like Youth Against Charter Change of Trapos (Y-CHAT) and National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) came up with creative ways to get their message across. Following from the statement of President Arroyo that the ‘train has left the station’ regarding the Charter Change, some youth protesters dressed as traffic aides.
Before the march, brief speeches were made by Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bayan and former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona Jr. Mother Mary John Manansan (Benedictine Sisters) led a prayer hoping that the people may be spared from another Martial Law. Reyes then challenged the people to march even if they have not secured a permit and to make their voices heard. For his part, Guingona explained how the administration’s camp uses deceit and bribery to push for charter change.
The march started at around 11 a.m. and protesters reached Mabuhay Rotonda. However, they got divided when the police ran to barricade the others while trying to cross the street.
A negotiation took place between the police and the protesters to let them pass. Both the police and the protesters stood firm. After a few minutes, a line of protesters stayed facing the police while the other rallyists were already walking towards the Sampaloc area. The protesters who were blocked managed to elude the police by pretending to disperse, marching first to E. Rodriguez Avenue and then turning right towards Sto. Tomas Street. They eventually converged as they marched towards Mendiola.
While marching, protesters felt the support of the masses as they were offered water to quench their thirst. The protesters rested for a while when they reached the Sto. Tomas Street.
The protesters marched though Fajardo Street, then passed Bustillos Street and eventually came out at Mendiola.
The police were unprepared to face the 3,000-strong protesters. The latter managed to remove the fence placed before them and came face to face with the police.
For about 15 minutes, the protesters held a program at the Don Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola). A sense of victory can be seen in the faces of the rallyists as they ‘reclaimed’ Mendiola.
Negotiations between the protesters and the police were ongoing when the former were doused with water coming from a fire truck.
The protesters were forced to retreat to Recto Avenue as they got truncheoned by police officers. Meanwhile, a group was pushed and pinned against the fire truck.
Even if the protesters were already retreating, the police still aimed the water cannon towards them.
The protesters then proceeded to España Street and announced an organized dispersal. They remain undaunted and the water cannon did nothing but to strengthen their resolve. (Bulatlat.com)