By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Amid jeers that his government is engaged in “hardcore US puppetry,” President Benigno Aquino III sat at an extended bilateral meeting in Manila held by visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Wednesday, after which he witnessed the signing in Malacañang of the Partnership for Growth (PFG) agreement between the Philippines and the United States. He then conferred on Clinton the Order of Lakandula with rank of Bayani.
The latter is a merit award in memory of Lakandula, an indigenous leader. It is usually conferred upon a Filipino or foreign citizen who has demonstrated in life and deeds a dedication to the welfare of society, and who lives a life deemed worthy of emulation by Filipinos. The Bayani (Hero) rank given to Clinton is usually given to individuals who have devoted their lives to peaceful resolution of conflict.
But outside Malacañang, the situation is hardly peaceful as groups protested the “interventionist” agenda of “the second most powerful US government official who paid our country a special visit.”
Members of patriotic youth and student organizations led by the League of Filipino Students (LFS) threw paintballs at the passing convoy of President Aquino’s “special guest,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as she headed to hold court at a forum in the National Museum Wednesday afternoon.
Aside from hurling paintballs, the youth protesters burned a US flag in front of the National Museum while Clinton was meeting with Filipino students. Aki Merced, spokesperson of LFS, explained that the flag-burning “is to express rage over the continuing unequal relations of the Philippines and the United States.” On Thursday the youth group also conducted a simultaneous US flag-burning program to denounce US intervention in Philippine affairs in various campuses.
“This is to send out the message that the Filipino youths are enraged and cannot bear the unequal relations between the Philippines and the United States anymore. These relations are concretely seen in the 60th anniversary of the onerous Mutual Defense Treaty,” said Merced.
Clinton “pretty much used” to anti-US protests
When Clinton’s convoy passed by the protesting students last Wednesday, she had not only just signed and launched in Malacañang the Partnership for Growth (PFG) agreement, an Obama government economic initiative. She had also just signed a Manila Declaration together with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, pertaining to the 60th anniversary of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), on board the USS Fitzgerald in Manila Bay.
“Hillary Clinton is here to further solidify the US government’s hold and control of our land, through its obedient puppet, Noynoy Aquino,” said the LFS.
“Despite strong claims about its being useless and onerous – the Mutual Defense Treaty and the other agreements it has engendered such as Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement – Aquino continues to bootlick the US government and proves to be tractable enough for the US to smoothly carry out its plans of continuing its political control of the Philippines,” said Merced.
The multi-sectoral rally led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) held on Tuesday to “unwelcome” Clinton aired the same opposition to the likely strengthening of MDT and other ‘un-mutual’ treaties between the US and the Philippines.
The Tuesday protesters braved the rain and truncheon-wielding police to march from Plaza Salamanca to the US Embassy in Roxas Blvd. Barred by the police twice, they burned a US flag on Kalaw Avenue. The groups dismissed the treaty promises as “myths,” and its gains as more in favor of US military and economic interests to the detriment of interests and human rights of Filipinos.
The Bayan-led rally called for the abrogation of the MDT and all unequal agreements it has borne out. Speakers from women’s group Gabriela, Migrante and their displaced from Mindanao Moro members, workers group Kilusang Mayo Uno, human rights group Karapatan, and LFS, decried the continuous presence of what they call as “supposedly just visiting US troops” in the Philippines. They blamed the MDT for “broken promises” or downright “myths” of bringing in cooperation and development to Philippine economy and military.
Roger Soluta, secretary-general of KMU, warned, during the rally last Tuesday, against the Obama initiative called Partnership for Growth (PFG) and the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership which he connects to the “US-instigated revival of charter change initiatives.”
“Cha-cha aims to further open up the Philippine patrimony and sovereignty to imperialist control and plunder,” Soluta explained. In the PFG and Trans-Pac partnership, he warned that the US “only wants to tie the Philippines into an agreement worse than that of the WTO (World Trade Organization).
“The US wants to oblige you to embrace the policies dictated by the imperialists,” warned Soluta.
While the Tuesday rally when Clinton was not yet around was just barred twice, the Wednesday rally by patriotic youths in Manila was violently dispersed by the police, injuring some of the participating student leaders.
Inside the Clinton forum with 105 guests that included student leaders, journalists and other opinion-makers at the National Museum, Marjohara Tucay, editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippines’ Philippine Collegian, “bravely stood up and aired the Filipino youth’s calls,” according to the LFS.
“There is nothing mutual in the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Tucay shouted repeatedly at the Clinton forum even as security personnel dragged him out of the venue. Clinton reportedly said that “I’m pretty much used to it after all these years.”
The awardee of the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Bayani reportedly told the media that even though she does not agree with the activist, she recognizes his right to voice his sentiments. “I think people have the right to express themselves, that’s what democracy is about,” Clinton reportedly said.
The LFS condemned the police for “harshly reacting to the youths’ legitimate protests.” They spat at the violent suppression of their rights and freedom of expression when they are just asserting the nation’s sovereignty.
Various reports described the Partnership for Growth initiative as a “joint” Philippine-US effort to promote and support “broad-based economic growth of emerging markets like the Philippines.” It is an implementation of US President Barack Obama’s directive on global development.
Based on Clinton’s announcements, the said Philippine-US “efforts” include a team from US coming to the Philippines to work closely with Filipino officials to help improve the Philippine economy, make it attractive to investors, for example.
Clinton paints a rosy scenario from out of these efforts, foremost of which are jobs creation and the Philippines eventually joining the US-envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership, which sounded like a free trade zone in the Pacific, straight out of the US government’s drawing board. With this region-wide partnership, Clinton reportedly foresees a dramatically increased trade and investment among the peoples of the Pacific. But this also spells opening up the country further to profit-seeking investments from the US, the most powerful country in the envisioned bloc, and greater US control over the Philippine economy.