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Vol. IV,  No. 23 Midweek Issue                 July  14, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines


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Cops Break Up Prayer Vigil for Angelo de la Cruz

Police armed with truncheons and water cannons created a mayhem at Plaza Miranda in Manila when they broke up a prayer vigil for Angelo de la Cruz, the Filipino contract worker held hostage in Iraq since July 8. Twenty of the rallyists were injured; four were arrested.



Militant leader Dr. Carol Araullo (left) bleeds from a head wound caused by truncheon blows. A police officer is caught by camera hitting defenseless rallyists (right).  

The student activism that fired the revolutionary ferment of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 was born in Plaza Miranda – dubbed as Manila’s “freedom park” - when it became the major scene of huge anti-Marcos rallies. Last July 13 blood spilled once again as groups of truncheon-wielding policemen stormed a prayer rally of activists, health and church leaders calling for the immediate pullout of Filipino troops in Iraq so that a compatriot worker – Angelo de la Cruz – would be set free. 

Hundreds of protesters joined the prayer vigil, organized by Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance), which was part of a series of protests that began July 9, the day after de la Cruz’s capture by Iraqi fighters was announced. De la Cruz’s captors threatened to behead him unless the Philippine government pulls out its 51-man contingent in Iraq.

Then at around 4 p.m., crowd dispersal policemen, in the pretext of clearing a traffic obstruction and without any provocation, attacked the rallyists. Video clips in Tuesday’s TV evening news showed men in civilian clothes joining the police in the mayhem.  

About 20 rallyists were hurt. 

Arrested by the police were Renato Reyes, Bayan spokesperson; Glyziel Gotiangco, a member of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines; Alvin Villamor Jr., Bayan campaign staff; and Edgar Faldas of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).

 The four were brought to the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Division in Bicutan, Manila several kilometers away. They were charged with “direct assault, obstruction and resisting arrest.” 

Maita Santiago, secretary-general of Migrante International, and Dr. Carol Araullo, Bayan vice chairperson, were also included in the complaint signed by Sgt. Romeo Sapitula, station commander of WPD Station 3.  

Araullo was among scores of rallyists seriously injured. She was hit on the head by a truncheon and her wound needed seven stitches.  

Emmanuel Montano, a student of Philippine Normal University, was also hit on the head. Dianne Zapata and Christopher Gerilla, students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, sustained arm and leg injuries.  

Like martial law  

In an interview with Bulatlat.com, Laorence Castillo, national chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), said they were holding a program at the Plaza Miranda when the police attacked them.  

“We proceeded to Liwasang Bonifacio, but the police used water cannons,” Castillo said. “We went to Isetann Mall along Recto Ave. but we were still chased by the police. We decided to go to the University of Santo Tomas, and then to Welcome Rotonda.” It was a five-km chase.   

In a statement, Antonio Tinio, national chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the “no permit, no rally” policy of the Arroyo administration means using excessive force to preempt or disrupt mass mobilizations of the people on any issue.  

“It’s like martial law,” Tinio said. “The incident was a blatant violation of out right to peaceably assemble and our right to express our demand to save the life of Angelo dela Cruz.”  

Castillo said Arroyo was being consistent in aping U.S. President George W. Bush. “While Bush invaded Iraq, killed millions of civilians, Arroyo is terrorizing the Filipino people who only wish to save Angelo dela Cruz. Both of them are terrorists.”  

Charges vs police  

In a press conference July 14, Araullo said they will file administrative and criminal charges against the police involved in the violent dispersal.  

Araullo said they will never be cowed by police brutality.  

She called on every Filipino who has any grievances against the government to join the protest action on July 26 when Arroyo delivers her state of the nation address (SONA).

Plaza Miranda has been spruced up by the Manila government and turned into a haven for tourists and tired souls to discourage its being used again for protest rallies. The July 13 incident proved that wrong. (Bulatlat)

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