“Edsa (anniversary) is for the ordinary people who fought the dictatorship and continue to fight today,” – Renato Reyes, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Anti-riot police men barred thousands of protesters on Edsa this afternoon, ironically, on the 29th year commemoration of the People Power gathering that ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
Hundreds of members of the Quezon City Police District lined up the foot of the Santolan flyover at the corner of Santolan street and Edsa, and blocked traffic, both protesters and vehicles, causing the Edsa south-bound traffic to stand still for some three hours.
The protesters, who are calling for President Aquino’s ouster, were supposed to form a human chain on the sidewalk, starting from Gate 1 of Camp Crame up to Edsa Shrine. This was to be followed by an interfaith prayer gathering on the first month of the botched Mamasapano operation.
“What a paranoid president,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson Teddy Casiño.
The rallyists were dismayed by the police blockade, since the activities were all coordinated with the police on Feb. 24, when rally organizers met with Police Chief Superintendent Diosdado Valeroso, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) deputy chief for administration.
Fr. Ben Alforque, who was among those who met with Valeroso the day before, said the latter reasoned that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) “made changes” based on their assessment, of which he was not informed.
“I don’t believe that there was ‘lack of coordination,’” Casiño said. “This is the result of a failure of a government, which is so scared of People Power on the anniversary of People Power.”
Protesters began to march toward Camp Crame from Farmers’ mall, Cubao at around 2:30 p.m.. At the same time, some 300 had gathered at Crame’s Gate 1, awaiting the main body of protesters for the interfaith gathering. Among them were church leaders and seminarians led by Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo and Bishop Reuel Marigza of the United Church of Christ, members of the VACC, among others.
The church leaders ended up walking toward Santolan to join those who had been barred from proceeding to Crame.
Addressing the anti-riot police, Anakbayan chair Vencer Crisostomo, said: “You should think hard about serving this government, whose hands are bloody from sending your colleagues to their death. Instead of blocking us, you should turn around and join us in our protest.”
The protesters chanted: “Sobra na, tama na, game over na,” in reference to the President’s known fondness for computer games.
The protesters proceeded to form a human chain which stretched from Santolan to Cubao. Santolan is still a kilometre away from Edsa Shrine, where protesters and government critics, ironically, are kept away by police in the past Edsa People Power commemorations.
“We coordinated so that traffic will not be obstructed. But where did we end up? In the middle of Edsa,” said anti-pork barrel activist Mae Paner, also known as “Juana Change.”
“Edsa (anniversary) is for the ordinary people who fought the dictatorship and continue to fight today,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. ““Let us recall why we have to repeat People Power, again and again, to give power to the people.”
The protesters have been calling for Aquino’s removal from office to be replaced by a “national transition council” to be composed of representatives of groups who form the broad people’s movement for Aquino’s ouster.