Posted 5:10 p.m., Sept. 13, 2006
Belgian, Dutch, and Filipino protesters, numbering about 100, gathered at the Schuman plaza fronting the European Commission building, September 12, to denounce Philippine Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as “the masterminds” behind the spate of killings and forcible disappearances of unarmed activists and their supporters now numbering 752 and 181 respectively.
The protesters carried a big banner, in full view of many motorists and pedestrians, which read “Stop the Political Killings”. They also paraded placards that read: “GMA, Norberto Gonzalez, War Criminals”, “R.I.P. (Rot in Prison)” demanding that they be tried before the war crimes tribunal in the Hague, and “GMA, AFP, PNP — masterminds of political killings”. They occupied the small plaza and laid out wooden crosses and photos of some of the more than 752 persons murdered by military death squads allegedly directed by GMA herself and the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security.
Inga Verhaer and Eloi Glorieux, members of the Belgian and Flemish Parliaments, respectively, were among the protesters. They spoke to the crowd about the need to defend human rights and democracy in the Philippines and to stamp out repressive regimes.
Marie Hilao, general secretary of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), a human rights alliance in the Philippines, also joined the protest and spoke before the crowd to expose the responsibility of the Macapagal-Arroyo government over that the spate of political killings in the Philippines. Hilao is scheduled later to fly to Geneva to file a formal complaint in behalf of the victims of political killings and their families with the UN Human Rights Council.
The crowd composed mainly by Belgian trade union and solidarity activists were later joined by Dutch and Filipino activists and some Filipinos working in Brussels.
It is expected that Macapagal-Arroyo would be reminded by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso that the political killings in the Philippines “were a matter of concern” to the EU during their meeting. Earlier during her visit to Finland, Finnish President Tarja Halonen expressed her country’s concern over the political killings in the Philippines.
While Gloria Arroyo was capping her day in Brussels with a 6 p.m. Mass with the Filipino community at the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudule along Parvis Sainte-Gudule in downtown Brussels, 14 Belgian, Dutch and Filipino activists tried to mount a silent protest by standing in front of the church with wooden crosses and photos of victims of political killings in the Philippines.
Alarmed at the sight of the protesters, Filipino security personnel called the local Belgian police.
The Belgian police confiscated some of the photos displayed by the protesters and asked for their European identity cards, and told the activists they were violating the law by not asking for a permit.
When the protesters argued that they were not violating any law because they were merely burning candles for the murdered victims of Gloria Arroyo and praying for justice, the police threatened to haul them off to the local police precinct saying that praying is allowed only inside the church. A police officer almost lost his cool when an activist asked him if they were specifically requested by GMA’s security personnel to prevent protesters from coming close to her.
The activists dispersed peacefully afterwards.
British and Filipino solidarity activists are also expected to hound GMA with protests when she visits London this week.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Belgian, Latin American, Dutch and Filipino activists also held a protest action in front of the American embassy in Brussels to condemn the continuing persecution and detention of the so-called “Cuban Five”. Collectively called the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzáles, and René Gonzáles were arrested and convicted in Miami, Florida on 26 different counts ranging from using false identification to espionage and conspiracy to commit murder.
A representative of Committee DEFEND also spoke on how the U.S. government and its puppet regimes demonize patriots and revolutionaries. Committee DEFEND also denounced the practice of proscription or terrorist listing by the U.S. and the EU. It said that this terror listing encouraged GMA, the AFP and the PNP to murder political activists. (Bulatlat.com)
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