By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – If Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda thinks that protesters who participated in Occupy Mendiola last week are just “copycats,” and so is he, said youth leader Vencer Crisostomo.
Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairman, said the government tries to downplay the protest because of its potential to attract more people because their calls are legitimate.
The Occupy Mendiola protests, participated mostly by youth and students, highlighted the meager government spending on education and other social services, among others. Protesters attempted to hold a campout in Mendiola (now Chino Roces bridge) for five consecutive days but they were brutally dispersed by the police.
“The protest is not just a mimic of the Occupy Wall Street. There is no need to copy the protest because we feel the dominance of the few rich through the government’s economic policies which causes poverty to the poor majority,” Crisostomo told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview.
In a recent article, Lacierda said the protesters are just “copycats” and that they are “raising issues that are not what the Occupy Wall Street protesters are pushing for.”
Crisostomo pointed out that Lacierda is the copycat. “He is a copycat of the government who serves the interest of the few. The dispersal was the copycat. It was a copycat of Arroyo’s calibrated pre-emptive response (CPR) and the Marcos dictatorship’s martial law. Lacierda is an illustration of a rotten system full of lies.”
During the height of protests against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita declared on Sept. 21, 2005 the CPR as a policy. Protest actions were violently dispersed by police, wielding truncheons and water canons.
Meanwhile, Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said that while the calls of different countries staging Occupy protests vary, Lacierda cannot dismiss that in the Philippines, people who represent the 99 percent are now revolting.
“Lacierda only shows his ignorance of the Occupy Movement. The protest is to convey a message that the 99 percent are fed up with the present system and are now willing to take action,” said. He said Lacierda’s statement only shows that the government protects the one percent in society.
In another statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Elmer Labog said “Lacierda merely exposes his ignorance, if not witting disregard of people’s issues.” The protests were meant to ventilate the legitimate issues of the people, the call for higher wages, higher budget for social services, among others, Labog said.
“We can no longer stand a twisted social set-up that robs the majority of our people of a decent life and basic social services. We can no longer stand a social system that produces immense wealth for foreign interests and a few as the people, who toil all their lives, are increasingly pushed deeper into hunger, poverty and injustice,” CampoutPH, an alliance of groups that joined the protests, said in a statement.
Provoking the police?
Lacierda also claimed that the groups were “merely causing trouble and provoking the police.” Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) justified their actions by saying that the protests are “seditious.”
“We had peaceful rallies way back before. We have freely held our protest rallies before – the Nov. 30 day of the toiling masses, the peasant rally, among others. Why are they preventing us to hold this camp-out now? Because our issues are legitimate and they are afraid of the potential that the people will take a stand,” Labog said.
According to Crisostomo, their campout is intended to be held peacefully. But the police barricaded Mendiola where they were supposed to put up their camp-out.
Mendiola was barricaded by a dozens of police, which, according to Palatino, came from four districts – one from Region 1 and three from NCR police districts.
“We did not expect that they will bar us from setting our campout in Mendiola. There will be no trouble if they did not deploy dozens of police troops in Mendiola. There shouldn’t be any trouble if not for their paranoia,” Crisostomo said.
Failing to reach Mendiola in the first four days, the protesters had their campout at Plaza Miranda and in Bustillos street, a few meters away from Mendiola. On Dec. 10, protesters finally set foot on Mendiola bridge, marking the International Human Rights Day.
“They are saying that it (occupy Mendiola) is a failure but the truth is they are just afraid that the protest will get bigger. It only proves that our calls are legitimate.”
The Occupy movement is an international protest movement against economic and social inequality. According to an article, the first occupy protest to receive wide coverage was Occupy Wall Street in New York City which began on Sept. 17, 2011. In less than a month, by Oct. 9 the occupy protests were ongoing in over 95 cities across 82 countries and over 600 communities in the US.
The Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, was inspired by the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Dec. 18, 2010. The protests have shared techniques of civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies, as well as the use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and Internet censorship.