A 3,000-strong peaceful march calling for an end to political killings and human rights violations successfully reached historic Mendiola bridge, only to be dispersed by water cannons and truncheons twenty minutes later.
Led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the marchers demanded that Mrs. Arroyo declare an end to the state policy of killing activists and political opponents which, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan, has victimized 679 civilians
The latest casualty in the Arroyo policy of killing activists was Marcos Bangit who was shot dead last night in Echague, Isabela. A native of Kalinga province, Bangit was serving the Elders Desk of the Cordillera People’s Alliance. Until 2004, he was provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna in Kalinga province.
The protesters arrived on Mendiola Bridge at exactly 12:00 noon, to shouts of victory from passersby and the marchers themselves. The anti-riot police started dispersing them with water cannons twenty minutes later. But unlike the first march that reached Mendiola on April 6, this time the protesters held their ground longer. The police had to order the firetrucks to follow the marchers who retreated to nearby Bustillos Market.
“Remove the fascist military from the rural areas,” the marchers shouted, in an apparent reference to soldiers led by the likes of Major Gen. Jovito Palparan who is now terrorizing civilian communities in Bulacan province.
Some flashed placards bearing pictures of some of activists assassinated by suspected military elements.
Leading the protest were Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan Chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan Araullo, Anakpawis Rep. and KMP Chairperson Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño and leaders of farmers’ organizations from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.
House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur C. Ocampo swiftly condemned the dispersal of the peaceful march. “The Arroyo government again bare its fascist pangs on people who were only asking for an end to political assassinations. The people will never forget and forgive her barbarity in treating opponents and critics.”
The protesters reached Mendiola close to three hours since they started marching from UST along España. They were initially stalled for two hours by a phalanx of anti-riot police near the corner of Morayta and España streets.
Sensing that authorities were intent in preventing them from approaching Mendiola via Morayta and Recto, the protest leaders decided to take P. Noval Street and other side streets until marchers successfully reached Mendiola Bridge at about high noon.