Sarah Katrina Maramag, Vice-Chairperson, 09193486790
Despite excessive police troop deployments and exaggerated security threats, an overwhelming 30,000 youth and students participated in today’s big anti-charter change protests in Liwasang Bonifacio and Luneta.
Students from UP, PUP, Ateneo, Miram, UST, UE, St. Scholastica, St. Paul’s, Letran, PNU, PCU, Adamson, Lyceum, FEU, La Salle, PSBA, NCBA and some public high schools converged in various points along Taft Avenue, Espana and Katipunan to register students’ unity against charter change and the Arroyo administration.
The young protesters wore “Santa Claus hats’ and “Xmas socks” imprinted with anti-cha cha slogans. The march from Liwasang Bonifacio to Luneta was made festive by torotots (noise makers) and small colorful lanterns bearing the youth’s “wish” for a “chacha-free Christmas.”
“Ms. Gloria Arroyo and her allies may have backed out of charter change for now but we are not letting our guards down. We call on our fellow youth to remain vigilant and continue to unite against any moves to railroad cha-cha this Christmas season,” said Eleanor de Guzman, Anakbayan chairperson.
For his part, Juan Paolo Alfonso, UP Diliman University Student Council Chairperson and Anakbayan Secretary-General, said, “We mark this day as students” universal Christmas party. We may hail from different schools and universities but we all came here in unity against the Arroyo administration. This is the real spirit of Christmas, one that Ms. Arroyo does not have the right to invoke.”
Pull-out troops now
Meanwhile, youths from urban poor communities, especially those from “militarized” parts of Metro Manila, also marched from Liwasang Bonifacio towards the Quirino Grandstand.
Platoons of military men in full battle gear have been sighted in some parts of Pandacan, Payatas and Caloocan this month. The military have reportedly set up camp in the said communities, conducting profiling and imposing curfews on the residents.
Residents also reported that the troops have been questioning them on the whereabouts and existence of militant and progressive groups in their communities.
On December 10, Human Rights Day, 20 Anakbayan community youth activists were illegally arrested and detained by military men in Payatas, Quezon City while conducting a “mobile campaign action” against charter change.
“We are calling on the Commission on Human Rights and other concerned sectors to launch an investigation on the unexplained deployment of heavily-armed military troops in our communities. The military has no business whatsoever to be setting camp in these areas. It is becoming more obvious that their sole purpose is to harass and scare the people into joining progressive organizations,” said de Guzman.
De Guzman added that it is possible that these communities are being set up as “test grounds” for plans to put up “counter-insurgency zones” similar to those set up in militarized Central Luzon. “We demand the military troops to pull out of our communities immediately.” The youth group announced that they are set to file a complaint at the CHR next week.