Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 32              September 14 - 20, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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The Gallery of Brutality

Instead of allowing dissenters to articulate opposing views, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration resorted to police brutality to send two messages: “Suffer the consequences if you choose to oppose!” and “You have the right to remain silent…forever!”


UP constituents hold an indignation rally a day after the violent dispersal of their protest action outside Senate last Sept. 9

The wave of protests last week created a ripple in the pond of public opinion.

The violent dispersal of protest actions against the World Trade Organization and graft and corruption in Makati City and Manila reflects the Arroyo administration’s desperation to quell social unrest by forcing the opposition into silence.

Instead of allowing groups and individuals the freedom to express their views and then engaging them in public debate, the administration resorted to police brutality in order to send two messages to teachers and students: “Suffer the consequences if you choose to oppose!” and “You have the right to remain silent…forever!”

And as may be seen from the experience of students and faculty of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, even freedom to dissent on local issues is not an exception in the overall trend of tightening repression.

Three professors and 10 students were arrested last Sept. 9 when the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Senate guards violently dispersed a rally of about 300 students at the Senate building.

Professors Melania Abad (Filipino), Rommel Rodriguez (Filipino) and Johnatan Pimentel (Mathematics) were arrested, detained and charged with assault and illegal assembly, along with students Atom Araullo, Eunica Aure, Rafael Lerma, Mark Rivera, Victor Pobre, Manuel Giron, Marco delos Reyes, Eleazar Samaniego, Andre Philippe Ramos and Jon Corsiga.

Abad is the secretary-general of the All-UP Academic Employees Union and a member of the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy, UP chapter (CONTEND-UP). Rodriguez and Pimentel are CONTEND-UP’s head of organizing and finance officer, respectively.

Araullo and Aure are elected councilors of the University Student Council (USC) while Lerma is the graphics editor of the Philippine Collegian, UP Diliman’s official student publication.

Anti-UP charter

Upon arriving at the Senate building, the demonstrators belonging to the broad alliance UP Not for Sale Coalition, were initially allowed to conduct a short program articulating their opposition to Senate Bill No. 2587, which proposes a new UP charter.

The Senate bill seeks, among others, to empower the Board of Regents, UP’s highest policy making body, to enter into joint venture agreements with the private sector. Organized students, employees, community residents and faculty stress that this will result in the corporatization of UP and will justify the State’s abandonment of education.

However, even when the program was still ongoing, the police and Senate guards started hitting the demonstrators with their truncheons and shields.

Scores were injured as a result. Student leader Aure, for instance, was punched in the chest and shoved to a parked car without any provocation on her part. Professor Abad, meanwhile, suffered a fractured right foot and bruises as a result of the dispersal. She sustained the injuries after a policeman slammed his anti-riot shield against her foot.

The arrested faculty and students were detained at the Pasay City Police District station and were later released at around 1:30 a.m. the following day, upon the intercession of UP Manila Chancellor Marita Reyes.

As if the arrests were not enough, the police followed the injured UP students and faculty to the Pasay City General Hospital. A uniformed police officer on a motorcycle then snatched a medico-legal report that the UP students and faculty had earlier requested from a doctor. When the latter was requested to produce a new report, the doctor refused to do so.

Upon their release, the 13 students and faculty, together with other demonstrators, immediately went to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for another medical check-up.

The UP Not for Sale Coalition captured the violent dispersal on tape, and the footage and pictures were shown to the media and other groups and individuals at a press conference in the morning of Sept. 10 and at an indignation program in the late afternoon of Sept. 12. Faculty and student leaders took turns in denouncing what transpired and vowed to continue the campaign against the passage of SB No. 2587. Bulatlat.com

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