Inside out

Random musings in and outside the news

Protesters reject Charter change

Posted by Abi Kwok on December 12, 2008

Warnings of civil unrest aired

By Abi Kwok, Thea Alberto, Katherine Evangelista

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 12) Thousands of protesters converged at the junction of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas in Makati City for a rally against moves by administration lawmakers to amend the Constitution.

The protest turned into a huge Christmas party for several organizations, with song and dance numbers were staged on a colorfully lit street with holiday decorations all over the buildings in the city’s financial district.

Apart from protest banners and placards scattered in the streets, there were also vendors selling dirty ice cream, native clothes, and other accessories. One vendor was selling souvenir buttons with the words “Moderate your Greed” and “Oust Gloria” printed on them.

At the middle of Paseo de Roxas, a small eatery serving rice porridge and noodles had been set up.

At the start of the protest, Makati mayor Jejomar Binay declared Makati City a Charter change-free city. “Handa ho kaming makibaka, teka, seditious yata yan [We are prepared to fight, wait, that seems to be seditious],” Binay quipped.

“Dito sa Makati, maniwala kayo magkakasama tayong lalaban sa anumang pagbabago sa ating Saligang Batas [Here in Makati, believe me, we are together to fight any attempt to change the Constitution],” he said.

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who represented his father, former president Joseph Estrada, criticized the recent dismissal of an impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the House of Representatives.

“Kamakailan, pinatay ang impeachment complaint, hindi idininig ang ika-apat na impeachment complaint, kaya patuloy ang katiwalian sa ating bansa [Recently, they killed the impeachment complaint, they did not hear the fourth impeachment complaint, which is why corruption continues in our country]” he said.

Early Friday evening, Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said they had achieved their goal of mobilizing 10,000 people from a “broad range of forces” including churches and various political parties and civil society groups, which he said showed how “widely rejected Cha-Cha [Charter change] has become.”

But National Capital Region police office (NCRPO) Director Leopoldo Bataoil refused to give a crowd estimate and “argue [with protesters] on figures.”

“As to the crowd estimate, I will not give my own, I will leave that to the organizers, and I will respect their crowd estimate,” he added.

Media outfits estimated the crowd peaking at 8,000.

Bataoil also said the protest was “generally peaceful with no untoward incidents.”

The five-hour rally ended promptly at 9 p.m. with protesters ending the program with the nationalist song “Bayan Ko” (My Country) while holding lit candles, and then quietly dispersing.

Earlier, the Philippine National Police said 4,700 anti-riot police would be deployed to provide security during the rally.

Protesters converged at the protest site at 4 p.m. Members of the contingent led by Bayan carried around huge Christmas lanterns with the words “Junk Cha-Cha,” with drums and folk dancers marching along.

A contingent from the Liberal Party, led by Senators Manuel Roxas II and Rodolfo Biazon, and Representative Ruffy Biazon, and former senator Franklin Drilon, among others, gathered in front of the Makati Post Office, to march to the rally site.

At the start of the protest, rallyists let loose swarms of green balloons to protest any moves to amend the Constitution.

“I hope we will be able to stop Cha-Cha [Charter change] after this. Charter change now is a manglement [sic], a rape of our constitution,” said Roxas in an interview.

Also at the protest are Senators Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Benigno Aquino III and Ma. Ana Consuelo Madrigal, United Opposition president Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, Bayan Muna (People First) Representatives Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo, Gabriela Representative Liza Maza and Representative Teofisto Guingona III, and lawyer Harry Roque, among others.

But former president Joseph Estrada, who promised to join the rally, will not show up as he rushed to be with his ailing 103-year-old mother.

Margaux Salcedo, Estrada’s spokesperson, said the former president rushed to the San Juan Medical Center where Doña Mary Ejercito is in “extreme medical condition.”

A contingent led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance), armed with colorful Christmas lanterns and dancing to native music, marched from Makati Avenue.

Ocampo, Casiño and Maza carried lanterns that read, “Junk Cha-Cha.”

Reyes accused police of “harassment” and trying to “delay people from attending the protest,” citing the alleged arrest in Cubao by Highway Patrol Group policemen of activists from the Muslim-Christian Alliance.

Reyes said the activists were hauled off to Camp Crame.

He also said a contingent from Cavite province, who police had reportedly prevented from going to Metro Manila, had decided to commute to the rally on public transport.

Reyes had said a contingent from Bataan province, led by Bishop Socrates Villegas, was also blocked at the North Luzon Expressway by police.

“The Filipino people, even the entire Philippine Senate, are opposed to Charter change,” said Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo.

“It should send a clear message to Mrs. Arroyo and her allies that it is time to quit moves to revise the Charter and extend her term in office,” Araullo said.

A leftist fisherfolk’s group on Friday called on mayors of Metro Manila cities to declare their respective bailiwicks “Charter change free” to show “strong opposition” against plans by administration allies to amend the Constitution.

“The people of the National Capital Region are extremely opposed to Cha-cha and to the alleged plot of Malacañang and the President’s allies to extend the term of the Chief Executive and all incumbent elected officials. It is the duty of all mayors in Metro Manila to carry this collective sentiment and political interest of their constituents,” Fernando Hicap, chairman of the fisher folk group Pamalakaya (Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, National Strength of the Fishers’ Movement in the Philippines), said in a statement.

Meanwhile, thousands of youth brought a giant Christmas card to Friday’s protest in Makati City.

The card read, “Our wish this Christmas: No cha-cha [Charter change] and No [President] Gloria [Macapagal-Arroyo]!” and, “The Filipino people’s best gift to the nation is a Cha-Cha-free Christmas and a Gloria-free New Year!”

Students from University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Miriam College, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, University of the East, and other schools in Metro Manila joined the protest.

“We are gathered here today to exercise our freedom of speech and at the same time to deliver a message, a warning. Youth protests will continue for as long as cha-cha is being pushed for Arroyo’s benefit. We vow to sustain our protests and guard against any attempts to amend the Constitution,” said Anakbayan chairman Ken Ramos.


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