Canada Filipino youth condemn violent dispersal of National Minorities in Manila US embassy protest

Filipino youth group Anakbayan in Canada strongly condemns the dastardly dispersal of protests of indigenous peoples belonging to the newly established SANDUGO alliance at the Manila US Embassy and at Camp Aguinaldo the previous day.

Around fifty were hurt when police personnel brutally used unreasonable force to break up the organized group.

Violence erupted when the police used water cannon, launched tear gas on the crowd, and highlighted by the act of a petty officer who plowed a patrol vehicle into the unarmed demonstrators, hurting a number of people. Injured people include youth leaders: SANDUGO Lead Convenor Piya Macliing Malayao, Quenilyn Gromeo of Anakbayan-PUP and Kabataan (Youth) Partylist Representative Sarah Elago. Dozens were illegally arrested.

“[This] leaves us to question whether the police of the country is actually protecting its people. Instead, we have seen a gross misuse of power to trample on the democratic rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters,” said Elesser of Montreal.

The legitimate anti-imperialist protest was conducted to call for the scrapping of skewed deals, such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and Philippines’ joint military exercises with the United States, which indigenous leaders blame as threat to their lives and their ancestral domain.

“I am not going into the blame-game as a start,” said President Rodrigo Duterte in the only statement he has made so far in response as he is on an official visit to China.

Duterte stressed he had given orders to implement maximum tolerance when faced with protesters. “I said early on: if you want to demonstrate, tell me. I’ll give you a permit for one week just do not invade the Constitutional orders of the (public’s) right to use the streets and be safe,” he added.

“The president may be nationalist and anti-US intervention, but the Philippine state is still a colonized state. The police still protects the interests of US imperialism and the comprador class,” said Kim of Toronto.

Being “civilian in character,” the Philippine National Police is under the directives of the president as the chief executive. As such, President Duterte ought to exercise his control of all executive departments, bureaus and offices to ensure that orders are faithfully executed. The police must serve and protect the Filipino people’s interests, and should not undermine the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

At the minimum, disciplinary action must immediately be carried out against policemen responsible in the line of defense, namely Franklin Kho, the driver of vehicle used to purposely hit civilians, and Marcelino Pedrozo, who ordered the bloody dispersal despite knowing the rally was about to end. They need to be summoned in the court, charged with frustrated murder and dismissed.

For all the tirades against the US, Duterte must continue the pursuit of an “independent foreign policy” to break away from half-century long unequal relations with the US. The fight is not over as long as US troops are in Philippine soil and agreements remain in effect.

In concrete, Anakbayan in Canada demands the junking of the US-sponsored counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which clearly is behind the strategic killings of indigenous and peasant leaders, intense militarization of the countryside, and continued state terrorism. We push for the Malacañang government to send a letter to Washington on the termination of Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and Mutual Defense Treaty.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people die fighting for their rights. They could have asked the cause for rallying talking to people helps you understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Killing majority of the time only harbors hate. And the more they harbor hate, the more people fight back,” shared Grace of Mississauga.

We commend indigenous peoples in their sacrifice travelling thousands of kilometres from their rural villages to the centre of power just to be heard and respected for their right to self-determination.

“We stand in solidarity with you and would like to let you know that we will continue to fight on our side to end foreign intervention in the Philippines,” said Elesser.

As far as independent foreign policy is concerned, the indigenous peoples are in the frontlines standing for it. And the struggles of the Lumad, Moro and other national minorities are linked with our struggle as youth. Not only is this beautiful. It’s patriotic. Onward with the struggle for people’s liberation and democracy for a just and lasting peace. ###

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