Arroyo Called Off ASEAN Summit Due to Storm of Protests, Activists Say

It’s the storm of protests against ASEAN and Con-Ass and not Typhoon Seniang that led to the postponement of the summit, cause-oriented groups in Cebu say.

By Emily Vital
Bulatlat.com

CEBU CITY – Organizers of counter-ASEAN conferences here believe that the real reason behind the postponement of the regional association’s summit of leaders is not due to an impending typhoon but the storm of protests against charter change that are seen to swell in the next few days.

The office of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, host of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, postponed Dec. 8 the event due to an impending typhoon, codenamed “Seniang.” Weather reports in Cebu said, however, the typhoon is expected to hit the northern part of Cebu island province but not the city where the summit is to be held Dec. 11-15.

Progressive groups are not buying the presidential office’s announcement.

In a press conference Dec. 9 at St. Theresa’s College here, Jaime Paglinawan, chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance)-Central Visayas, said that the postponement is due to the impending storm of protests here in Cebu and in Metro Manila.

“Even before the opening of the ASEAN summit,” Paglinawan said, “protests have been staged by different sectors. We have exposed the ill impacts of the ASEAN hosting. Corruption and overspending of local governments, demolition of urban poor communities, human rights abuses, among others, have been highlighted.”

Meanwhile, Elmer Labog, chairp of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), underscored the impact of what he called @brewing political storm in Manila@ to the ASEAN summit.

“Jose de Venecia and other Malacanang lackeys in Congress are doing everything they can to shield Arroyo from the wave of criticisms and protests from all sectors,” he said.

Bayan and other anti-Arroyo forces have announced that they will hold big mass actions next week against the Con-Ass (short for constituent assembly). The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has also called on the faithful to oppose the Con-Ass.

Middle of last week, the administration-dominated House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1450 calling for the conversion of the bicameral Congress into a Constituent Assembly) that will amend the 1987 Constitution. Proponents of charter change have been batting for a shift for a unicameral parliamentary system but its opponents see otherwise – a strategy to perpetuate the power of the President and her political allies in the House.

Apparently taken aback by the spontaneous howls of protest against Con-Ass, De Venecia announced December 9 the postponement of ConAss and called for elections of members of Constitutional Convention (ConCon) on May 14.

Reacting to De Venecia, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo said that the decision of the House speaker and the majority bloc to drop the Con-Ass temporarily is a “tactical victory for the Filipino people.” He added, however, that the people must remain vigilant.

Counter conferences continue

Rita Baua, vice chair of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) Philippine chapter, said that they will push through with the conference on U.S. militarism and war on terror. Some 130 local and foreign delegates from 20 countries have arrived for the conference.

Baua said, foreign delegates have are in Cebu to discuss the implications of the U.S.’ global war of terror to the peoples of the world and unite on ways “to resist U.S. military intervention and aggression.”

The ILPS will launch a campaign in East Asia and Oceania against U.S. military bases. The U.S. has 850 bases in 138 countries.

In a statement, Antonio Tujan, chair of the Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) and Ibon research director, said, “We will continue to oppose U.S. agenda in the ASEAN because agreements have already been made and continue to be negotiated.” The APRN co-sponsored the conference on militarism. (Bulatlat.com)

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