“You think you can hide the people’s protest? But as we leave Liwasang Bonifacio, we move closer to the venue of the summit.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao – composed mostly of Lumád bakwet (evacuees) – condemned the Aquino government as they were forced to “evacuate” from Liwasang Bonifacio here today, Nov. 13, because of the “overkill” security preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ summit next week.
The Manilakbayan complied with an agreement with Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada, to leave the area by 6 p.m. today. The city government allowed the protest camp only up to Nov. 12, citing pressure from Malacañang which reportedly wants the area cleared of Lumád protesters, in time for the arrival of Apec visitors.
Ironically, the protest camp evacuated to the Baclaran Church along Roxas Boulevard in Parañaque City, just a short distance from the Apec venues mostly in Pasay City.
“You think you can hide the people’s protest? But as we leave Liwasang Bonifacio, we move closer to the venue of the summit,” said Bai Ali Indayla, of Kawagib, Moro Human Rights Group. “There, we will be warmly welcomed by church people and a community, where we will continue to expose President Aquino and his imperialist masters.”
“Pangiyaki” (Lumád shoutout) and bamboo drum beats filled the streets of Manila, as some 1,000 Lumád and their supporters held an indignation march to Mendiola from Liwasang Bonifacio, after they broke camp at 3 p.m., following the dialogue with Estrada.
After the dialogue, Estrada told media that Apec is a special occasion because the country is hosting 21 heads of states and hundreds of foreign media. “We got to ensure the safety of all our visitors and to protect the image of our country at all cost,” Estrada said. “We have to show that our country is safe, our country is clean.”
“They want to show ‘a good image,’ but that is not the truth. They are lying,” said Eufemia Cullamat of Mapasu.
Estrada’s original permit to the Manilakbayan allowed them up to Nov. 22 in Liwasang Bonifacio, but cut it short to Nov. 12, citing a memo from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The Manila Police District also refused to give permit to the Lumád camp calling it “unsightly, unsanitary.”
The Manilakbayan leaders asserted that they have a Constitutional right to redress their grievances and stay at Liwasang Bonifacio, named after the Father of Philippine Revolution, Andres Bonifacio. But Estrada told them that Malacañang was already scolding him because the camp was still standing.
Jerome Adonis, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, called the national government’s preparations as “Martial law,” and repression of the right to freedom of expression.
“They want to hide the truth, the poverty of the workers and majority of the people. They want to hide these from the eyes of the leaders of other countries,” he said.
From Mendiola, the Manilakbayan headed to Baclaran in a convoy of vehicles.
Rising with the sun
Earlier in the morning, Lumád leaders held a panubadtubad alang sa salugpongan, a ritual which called for blessings from the God of Nature to bless the Manilakbayan as they continue their struggle and their calls. A white chicken was slit in the throat, and its head was positioned towards the east, as a wish that the Manilakbayan will “rise with the sun.” A Lumád leader also poured water on the ground, “to cool” President Aquino’s head so that he will hear the lakbayanis’ call.
Stand with the Lumád
The night before, artists and musicians flocked to Liwasang Bonifacio, which became a solidarity concert ground for pop and Lumád culture. Among those who performed were Aiza Seguerra, Bayang Barrios, BLKD, and various indie bands.
From early morning to noon, Manilakbayan supporters slowly streamed in: women, teachers, environmentalists, the religious, and workers.
Mae Paner, a.k.a.Juana Change, decried the government’s clearing up operations of the poor and its critics.
“Are you people trash?” Paner asked. “You are Filipinos, and you are my brothers…We have the same aspiration to have our country stand on its own. But because of Apec, we are all ‘Apec-tado, and now you have to evacuate,” she said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the protesters should brace themselves for the coming days, as the Aquino government is wont to supress its critics “to impress” US President Barack Obama and other Apec leaders.
“The Aquino regime is so scared, now that it sees the growing support of the people to the case of the Lumád and Mindanaoans,” Zarate said.
Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis partylist first nominee and one of the leaders of Manilakbayan, blamed Aquino for their displacement in Manila, and for stonewalling their calls for the pull-out of soldiers and paramilitary in communities, and stop the attacks against schools and Lumád leaders.
“Our anger, our protest, our call for justice and condemnation. are directed to the commander in chief,” Casilao said.