MANILA – Thousands of protesters on Philippine Independence Day marched to the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard here, where they brought their calls to get US soldiers out of Philippine soil.
The groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) had just come from an earlier rally at the Chinese consular office in Makati City, where they protested China’s claims on Philippine territories on the West Philippine Sea.
Even before the protesters arrived, the Philippine National Police (PNP) had positioned their first blockade at the corner of Marcelo H. Del Pilar Street and UN avenue, at 11:26 AM. An official of the Metro Manila Development Authority gave an estimate that 1,000 police personnel were present.
At around 11:20 AM onwards, more anti-riot police men reinforced the blockade at Del Pilar Street.
At 11:46 AM, the protesters that gathered from Taft avenue marched along United Nations avenue towards the US Embassy, chanting “Down with imperialism!” and “Ang tao, ang bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban (The people, the country is now fighting.)” They only got as far as the police blockade, and had to hold their program several blocks away from the US embassy.
“Ang June 12 ay dapat kilalanin bilang araw ng pakikibaka ng mamamayan para sa tunay na kalayaan (June 12 must be commemorated as the day people fought for genuine freedom),”said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela. She denounced the alleged participation in Marawi City of US soldiers, whose presence in other parts of the country resulted to human rights violations.
Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson decried how police have barred them from reaching the front of the US embassy.
“Mga kababayan, hindi tayo lubos na magiging malaya hangga’t may pulis dito na nakaharang sa ating sama-samang pagkilos at pumipigil sa ating karapatang magpahayag (Compatriots, we are not completely free as long as the police restricts our assembly and right to freedom of expression),” he said.
Hernando said urban poor and workers cry for jobs with decent wages in the country, but many are pushed to work abroad because of lack of these. Also, he said the people should remind Duterte about his promise of a ‘good Philippines’ and this would be when there is no other foreign entity dictating us.
Enteng Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment,said foreign colonizers still abound in the country: “After more than 100 years, the interest of the imperialist United States and other capitalist countries in the Philippines remain the same.”
Bautista pinpointed how foreign investors are the only ones benefiting from the country’s natural resources, agricultural lands, minerals, and our sea. This should instead be used for the benefit of Filipinos, he said.
Pia Malayao, convenor of the Sandugo Movement of Moro and National Minorities for Self-Determination, emphasized how the US keeps on meddling in the efforts for peace and democracy in the Philippines. She cited that indigenous peoples bore the brunt of human rights violations that resulted from US-imposed counterinsurgency programs. Most of the victims are the Lumad of Mindanao, who have been calling for justice, she said.
The national spokesperson of the League of Filipino Student, JP Rosos, closed the program by expressing rage at how the US is ultimately behind the terrorist attacks in Marawi City, as the Islamic State – which allegedly inspired the local armed group Maute – was founded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Rosos said this was the same thing that happened in history, as the American colonizers trained Filipinos to suppress their resisting compatriots. “We have witnessed how they (U.S.) used Filipinos against their fellow Filipinos to gain control over our country,” he said.
The protesters ended the program at exactly 12:44 PM, but were set to gather again for the 4 PM prayer rally at the Bonifacio Monument.