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Volume 2, Number 26              August 4-10,  2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Week-long Protest Greets Powell
Militants Defy Palace Ban on Rallies

Militant groups staged an extended week-long protest, capped by a march-rally outside the United States (U.S.) embassy in Manila. Activist leaders said government’s “no-permit, no rally” policy is unconstitutional but authorities were undaunted with the immigration chief threatening to deport four Japanese activists.


Around 2,000 members of the activist party-list group Bayan Muna (People First) and militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) marched to the U.S. embassy to protest the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and impending approval of the controversial Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA). Several foreign delegates to the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) held earlier in Zamboanga also joined the mass action.

August 3 rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge

The Western Police District (WPD) deployed around 200 riot policemen to prevent protesters from getting near the embassy. Students under the militant youth group Anakbayan tried to get close but policemen blocked and truncheoned the rallyists. No serious injuries were reported.

After almost an hour of negotiation, the rallyists were finally allowed to conduct their protest at the opposite lane facing the U.S. embassy.

Bayan Muna party list representatives Satur Ocampo and Crispin Beltran, Caloocan City councilor and Bayan Muna secretary-general Nathaniel Santiago, Bayan spokesperson Renato Reyes Jr., labor leader Elmer Labog, Professor Ed Villegas, Gabriela's Emmie de Jesus and Rita Baua of the International League of Peoples' Struggles (ILPS-Philippine chapter) led the march to the embassy.

PNP chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. earlier placed the entire National Capital Region (NCR) on heightened alert in preparation for Powell's arrival and the protest rallies.  He warned members of militant groups that they would be arrested and charged if they violate the PNP's no permit, no rally policy.

Bayan’s Reyes said the government has no right to ban rallies saying the right to demonstrate is recognized in the 1987 Constitution.  "We warn the military and their hoods from committing any act of mischief that may harm the protesters," he added.  

Testing the waters

The militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakbayan were the first to defy the no-permit-no-rally policy by holding separate mass actions on Tuesday last week.

Pamalakaya members joined by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Nnara-Youth and ILPS- Philippines literally and politically tested the waters when they plunged into the waters of Manila Bay near the U.S. embassy in Manila for a fluvial protest.  

Anakbayan staged a lightning rally at the main gate of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City on the first day in office of Secretary Blas Ople, a self-confessed pro-American and staunch supporter of the U.S. basing agenda in the Philippines.

Pamalakaya secretary general Noli Serrano said U.S. secretary Powell does not deserve Filipino hospitality because he is “a criminal and a certified terrorist." Powell, he said, was sent to clinch the MLSA.

KMP's Mariano said red flags of protest and not a red carpet welcome should be the order of the day for Powell. He reiterated his group's call for Powell to produce and surrender American soldier Reggie Lane along with two other American GIs who figured in the shooting and arrest of Abu Sayyaf suspect Buyong-Buyong Isnijal on July 24.

The peasant group learned that the U.S. military command has instructed their local counterparts to allow at least three American soldiers at the company level for combat operations.

Torrent of street actions

More militant groups went on with their sectoral mass actions to protest the arrival of Powell, the Balikatan and MLSA. Last Wednesday, three mass actions were held starting with the “send off protest” at the Manila Bay by the Promotion of Church for Peoples' Response (PCPR).

In Quezon City, NNARA-Youth, a peasant youth group, held a " flyover protest" on the Edsa flyover near the corner of East Avenue.

In Manila, workers and youth activists from KMU and Anakbayan joined forces for another round of protest, this time in front of the U.S. embassy.  Children of OFWs also hit newly-installed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople for his anti-OFW and blatantly pro-US record.

“Instead of creating well-paying and stable jobs here, Sec. Ople ensured the pattern of breaking up our families by exporting millions of our jobless parents abroad,” decried Jose Jerome Pascua, KAMiYAN Deputy Secretary-General. “Foreign affairs secretaries should not be pre-occupied with pleasing foreign governments or looking for cheap migrant labor and military agreements to the detriment of our citizens here and abroad,” he added.

Travelling protest

Aside from the NCR protests, cause-oriented groups trooped to Zamboanga early this week in what they dubbed as “Lakbay Kalinaw: A Nationwide Journey for Sovereignty and Peace.” Bayan’s Teddy Casiño described the mass action as a coordinated “air, sea and land action against continuing US intervention in the Philippines.” 

Its participants came from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and joined up with members of the ISM upon reaching Zamboanga City. They were however not allowed by the AFP Southern Command to hold rally in front of the SouthCom headquarters. AFP officials and the president herself were piqued by the ISM report on the involvement of an American soldier in the shooting of an Abu Sayyaf suspect.

Thus, while anti-U.S. rallyists were being guarded with hundreds of troops accompanied by an armored personnel carrier, a handful of pro-U.S. rallyists were allowed to demonstrate in front of the AFP South Com headquarters. Protesters report that they did not eat the whole day of July 23 because of the military restricting their movement.

A Catholic priest noted, “It is the height of irony that American soldiers are free to enter and operate in any part of the country while we Filipinos are denied the right to demonstrate against the Balikatan exercises that clearly violate the nation’s sovereignty.”  Rev. Fr. Allan Arceburce , OFM,  said “it is really outrageous that Pres. Arroyo’s ‘Am-Girl instincts’ made her resort to the ‘communist bogey’ again when Mission participants exposed the case of American soldiers’ involvement in local police operations.

In San Francisco, migrant Filipinos and their supporters also held a protest last July 31 to denounce Balikatan and continued US military presence in the Philippines. 

Deport Powell, not 4 Japanese activists

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap likewise scored the alleged plan of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) to deport four Japanese activists who participated in the ISM.

BID chief Andrea Domingo said Shu Kawaguchi, Matsuki Kazuhide, Takano Ikeda and Marishita Keisuke face possible arrest and deportation for joining the rallies of Toyota Motor workers in the Court of Appeals and the regional court trial in Parañaque City.

The four Japanese, who are currently under BID’s surveillance, are all members of the Japan-based All Wide Campaign, a group opposed to the growing presence of U.S. military in the region.

"Commissioner Domingo made a big mistake. The four Japanese activists are true-blue pro-Filipinos for supporting the struggle of local folks for national sovereignty and labor rights," Hicap said.

The militant leader said instead of attacking human rights and civil liberties of pro-Filipino visitors, the BID chief should deport Powell because the U.S. top official has cruel intentions against the Filipinos. Bulatlat.com

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