Foreign human rights activists join SONA protests

By Jaymee T. Gamil, Philippine Daily Inquirer –
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/449993/foreign-human-rights-activists-join-sona-protests

22 July 2013

MANILA, Philippines–The State of the Nation (SONA) protests have gone
international.

The hundred-strong International Coalition for Human Rights in the
Philippines (ICHRP), composed of foreigners from 27 countries, joined
leftist coalition Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in their street
march and protest against President Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation
Address on Monday.

Amid hundreds of protesters from different sectors, the human rights
group was a quiet standout with their multiracial contingent and
placards in foreign languages.

Their message, however, was summed up in a banner they bore as they
marched along Commonwealth Avenue toward the Batasang Pambansa Complex
in Quezon City: “Fight US-Aquino’s Dirty War Against the Filipino people!”

The ICHRP, when it embarked on the march, was only a day old; on its
very first campaign after a three-day human rights conference which saw
267 multisector participants from 27 countries, said ICHRP and
Philippines Australia Union Links secretary general Peter Murphy.

“For many years, people around the world have been aghast at the human
rights abuses in the Philippines, and the Aquino government has made no
difference. This is an expression of the international community
deciding to confront…this regime. It must stop,” Murphy said, during a
standstill in the protest-march in front of the Ever Gotesco mall along
Commonwealth around noontime Monday.

A heavily-defended police barricade–with a fence of barbed wire in front
and a line of container vans behind—prevented the protesters from
marching on toward the Batasan road.

Chief of the ICHRP’s demands was to stop the government
counterinsurgency program “Oplan Bayanihan,” which local human rights
groups such as Karapatan claimed perpetuate extrajudicial killings and
enforced disappearances.

Murphy said that he expected Mr Aquino’s speech to tout “wonderful
progress being made in the Philippines.”

“But the terrible truth is that it’s not. It’s a terrible situation for
the people. So many millions of people even have to leave the
Philippines to get a job, which is against their human rights,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s dismal assessment only echoed that of the Bayan member groups
present at the protest march, such as women’s advocy group Gabriela,
labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, youth group Anakbayan, among many others.

The protesters, numbering in the hundreds, pushed out from Commonwealth
near the corner of Luzon Avenue at around 10:30 a.m. to march toward
Batasan Road, despite previously being denied rally permits on the
thoroughfares.

At the head of the march was a 13-foot effigy of Mr Aquino at a dining
table laden with the USS Guardian, a “privatized” hospital, a water tank.

“The effigy depicts the so-called economic growth being enjoyed by only
a few ruling elite. The menu of the SONA ‘banquet’ will include lotsa
pork [barrel], hefty servings of PPP (public-private partnerships) and
expensive water from private companies,” Bayan secretary general Renato
Reyes explained earlier, in a text message to the media.

Reyes lamented Aquino’s three-year administration as lacking “meaningful
changes.” “The last three years have seen the widening gap between the
rich and the poor, rising unemployment and poverty and the escalation of
prices,” Reyes said.

As of noon, the protest remains on a standstill in front of the Ever
Gotesco mall, and have occupied at least half of the opposite lane of
Commonwealth.

Earlier, the protesters dragged away fences with barbed wire separating
the opposite lanes, and have pushed through a first barricade of
policewomen bearing flower bouquets and white balloon

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