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‘She is longest burning President’
In The Press Posted on July 28th, 2009.
Source:Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Rain soaked a 12-foot effigy of a decaying President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on a full-steam bulldozer running over the Constitution, but militants nonetheless sent the protest centerpiece up in flames on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, before the start of her State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“She’s the longest burning President. Gusto talaga manatili sa pwesto! (She really wants to keep her post)” Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Masa joked, as protesters repeated lighting up the bulkiest of all effigies that militants from the umbrella Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) built for the SONA rallies.
Thousands of protesters warned Ms Arroyo of civil unrest if she tries to extend her term beyond next year. Riot police used trucks, barbed wire and shipping containers to block their path leading to the Batasang Pambansa, where the President delivered her speech.
Police placed the number of protesters at 8,500, while organizers said their ranks reached 15,000.
Similar rallies were mounted in key cities outside Metro Manila, as well as in Hong Kong and New Zealand.
The “Gloria Forever” effigy seemingly repelled fire amid a drizzle at around 3:45 p.m. Monday. It took roughly 10 minutes before the flames finally overpowered it, razing the disfigured head first.
As the rap-rock band Datu’s Tribe played heavy rock, protesters took turns throwing bottles and trash at the figure, and chanted “Gloria sinungaling! (Gloria liar)” in an outpouring of discontent.
More bands took the stage to play as young people danced under a light shower.
“The musicians are here to show their support to us and express their disgust over the corrupt Arroyo administration,” Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general, told the Inquirer.
Personalities who usually attended SONA rallies in the past again came out Monday. They included former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr., and Grace Poe, daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr., whom the President defeated in the fraud-marred 2004 election.
Eight men whom the protesters suspected to be “infiltrators” were beaten up shortly before noon.
Supt. Marcelino Pedrozo of the Quezon City police intelligence and operations unit identified four of them as Benjie Dollente, 42; Romeo Toreña, 42; Hedelsus dela Peña Sr., 57, and Antonio Nagas, 44, who all claimed to be members of the International Guardians Solidarity Action Force.
The rest gave their names as Sgt. Roger Ipiscua and Danilo del Rosario, who said they were Army reservists; and Eliseo Datul Jr. of Eagle Matrix Security Agency, and Rodrigo Gaquit of Tomcat Security Agency.
“If they did not have any other intention but to join the rally, why would they run away?” Virgilio Colandog, one of the rally marshals, said in a phone interview.
Chief Supt, Roberto Rosales, head of the National Capital Region Police Office, said that “right now, I don’t see any violations that they (the four men) may have committed by just being at the rally. But it’s up to them if they decide to press charges against those who beat them up.”
“We will not comment about their affiliations at this time, but military personnel had no right to be present at the ralliers’ ranks,” said Carmela Rosete, head of the Commission on Human Rights’ protection and monitoring team.
Despite warnings from the Bureau of Immigration, a number of foreigners joined the rally.
Nine Belgian nationals went with the contingent of activists and farmers from Cavite. They were earlier held by police at a checkpoint in Bacoor town.
“People around the world know how corrupt and oppressive the government of Arroyo has become. We’re here to add our voices in support of the fight for democracy around the world,” said an Australian, who asked not to be named.
HK, New Zealand
Carrying banners and streamers, overseas Filipino workers led by Migrante International marched on the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong’s downtown area. They were joined by members of the women’s group Gabriela, Bayan and Bangon Pilipinas Movement.
A Migrante chapter, the United Filipinos (Unifil) in HK, warned that lawmakers who support Charter change would be committing “political suicide” because the OFWs would influence their families and friends not to support their candidacies.
“It is our future that is at stake here,” Unifil chair Dolores Balladares said in a separate statement.
About 10 Migrante members climbed the snow-capped Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand over the weekend and held a brief protest against a Congress plan to convene a constituent assembly in order to amend the Charter.
Eight years of an Arroyo presidency saw militants barricaded farther and farther away from the Batasan complex, and militants said the last might well be the most “paranoid.”
On top of a blockade of container vans and a police line with shields and truncheons, barbed wire separated the ralliers who gathered to send off Ms Arroyo on her last SONA. Barbed wire was not seen in the police barricade during last year’s SONA protest.
“It’s an indication of how far GMA (Ms Arroyo) is from the people. She has really isolated herself, barricaded herself from the protests of the people,” Bayan’s Reyes said.
In Naga City, Army soldiers manning checkpoints blocked at least 14 jeepneys carrying protesters from Libmanan, Pasacao and Bato towns from joining the rally at the Camarines Sur capital, according to Bong Responde, Bayan spokesperson in the province.
But Maj. Christopher Morales, a spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division, said he had not received any report of protesters being held at military checkpoints.
A transport strike staged by the militant Nagkahiusang Draybers sa Sugbo (Nadsu) loosened the usually heavy traffic in Cebu City.
Public transport across major routes between the city and its neighbors was down 20-60 percent as many drivers refused to join the strike, according to Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM) executive officer Arnel Tancinco.
Nadsu, however, said it was able to paralyze 70-80 percent of Metro Cebu routes, especially in Mandaue City. It earlier joined Bayan in a protest rally on Colon Street.
Tancinco said the city government deployed 12 buses and six multicabs to ferry stranded commuters.
No to Cha-cha
In Bacolod City, a crowd of 12,000 gathered at the public plaza to attend a Church-led rally against Charter change and to demand that Ms Arroyo step down in 2010.
An open letter by the Negrenses United Against Constituent Assembly to Speaker Prospero Nograles and congressmen from Negros Occidental was passed around, opposing any Charter change moves through a Con-ass.
Bishop Vicente Navarra appealed to the sense of honor and Christian dignity of the lawmakers to oppose Cha-cha now and any attempt to prolong Ms Arroyo’s stay in power.
In Davao City, Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III told some 5,000 people who joined the rally at Rizal Park that four administration lawmakers planned to withdraw their support for any move to amend the Charter through a constituent assembly (Con-ass).
“Their conscience were touched by growing opposition of the people against Con-ass,” Guingona said. He did not name the lawmakers.
Scores of protesters attended Bayan-led rallies and marches in the cities of Zamboanga, Iligan, Kidapawan, General Santos and Koronadal.
A torch parade was held on Sunday night by the Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (Karatula) in North Cotabato.
Mud at billboard
In Iloilo, around 1,500 people marched from various towns since Sunday, braved the rains and converged on the grounds of the provincial capitol for a rally.
Farmers threw mud at a billboard of the President beside a government project along General Luna Street in Iloilo City.
“She has buried as deeper and deeper in the mud of poverty, hunger and corruption,” said Susanito Talibo of the Federation of Iloilo Farmers Association (Fifa).
In Capiz, some 1,000 protesters camped out in Ivisan town on Sunday and marched to Roxas City for Monday’s cultural rally at the Band Stand.
Dubbed “Lakbayan sang Pumuluyo,” the rally was attended by members of Bayan, Tumandok and the Katilingbang sang Magagmay nga Mangingisda (Kamaka).
In Aklan, around 500 people held a “State of the People’s Address” on Banga and New Washington streets in the capital town of Kalibo. They arrived at the Magsaysay Park on Sunday after marching from Makato town.
In Tagbilaran City, a handful of members of the Boholanos Against Con-Ass (Bacona) staged their final protest exercise that they had been doing every 5:30 a.m. at the city’s public park for the past two weeks.
Bacona convenor John Ruiz III blamed an early morning drizzle for the low turnout early Monday, but the number swelled to about 700 during the march-rally in the afternoon.
Some 200 members of Bayan chapters in Nueva Ecija, Olongapo City, Zambales, Tarlac and Pangasinan gathered at the Holy Family Academy auditorium Monday for a forum on Cha-cha and Con-ass.
Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan and lawyer Rolando Miranda, chair of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Central Luzon, said Con-ass and Cha-cha were “illegal, unconstitutional and anti-Filipino.”
Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio attended the forum. On Friday, he led a rally by the Kapampangan Kontra Cha-Cha (K2C2) in the City of San Fernando. K2C2 opposed Con-ass, Cha-cha and the lifting of term limits for President Macapagal-Arroyo.