December 6, 2011
Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) criticized Manila police authorities for denying various youth organizations and other sectoral groups their right to peaceably assemble at the Mendiola Bridge and press Malacañang for urgent economic relief including higher budget for education and other social services.
The group also dared President Benigno S. Aquino III to reverse the repressive no rally policy at the bridge leading to the presidential residence if he is, as he likes to project, the opposite of his despised predecessor, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. The police justified their action on the basis of the no rally policy, which the Arroyo administration used to undermine the growing mass protests during its reign.
On Monday, hundreds of protesters led by students from different universities around Metro Manila marched towards Mendiola Bridge but were blocked by riot police, who also fired water cannon in an attempt to disperse the mass gathering. The protesters had planned to camp out at the bridge leading to Malacañang to protest the budget cuts on education, escalating prices of basic goods and services, as well as to highlight the widening gap between the poor and rich in the country.
Bayan deputy secretary general Eleanor de Guzman said that the police response is reminiscent of the repressive Arroyo administration. “We were told that the days of a government that is uncaring to the plight of the people are over. But even our basic right to protest and to make our demands known continues to be undermined,” said de Guzman.
De Guzman said that instead of repression, the Aquino administration should respond to the legitimate demands of the people and address the issue of government neglect of the poor and marginalized and anti-people economic policies especially amid the ever intensifying global and domestic crisis. “Aquino may still be popular today. But failure to address the grinding poverty and the repression of those who protest such grave injustice will surely and quickly erode this popularity,” de Guzman warned. #