To view more photos, go click here.
I’m still trying to process all of this. It didn’t really hit me until I saw the pictures and videos from the rally and subsequent dispersal. These are youth and students, like myself and all the people I will see this coming Tuesday on the first day of school. Like the many organizers across the country who want change as much as I do. To see fellow organizers treated this way makes me sick to my stomach.
Sorry if you can’t fully understand tagalog, I’m limited as well. Click here for news article (in English).
The reason why the students mobilized was to protest the extravagant spending spree that GMA and her entourage took part in during their recent trip to the United States. At one dinner in New York City, they spent close to one million pesos (which comes out to around $20,000). At another dinner in Washington, DC, they spent around $15,000. They claim that no public money was spent and they don’t see what the big deal is. The problem is that GMA is the president of a country that can’t feed itself, where everyday millions of people can’t find enough food to eat, and is facing the brunt of an international economic crisis. Her spending spree shows her arrogance and lack of empathy for the daily struggle the people she’s supposed to serve must face.
So youth and students took up the call and took their message straight to her doorstep. Many of them also struggle as poor, working-class students. Many of them went to out to speak for their families, who struggle to support their academic pursuits. They represented those, who for one reason or the other, couldn’t voice their anger and frustration at this administration’s blatant lack of respect for its own people.
Some will say, “well, these students broke the law, they entered a restricted zone and deserved what they received.” First off, it’s not like they were outside of GMA’s bedroom. GMA created this zone in an attempt to silence the cries of the people. To push them far enough so she couldn’t hear them. The original perimeter never threatened her personal safety. It goes along with that old adage: Out of sight, out of mind.
Second, the anger the students felt is justified. This is their lives we’re talking about. The lives of their families. Everyday, they have to face the suffering of a seemingly unending condition. Then they see the president and her cronies spend more money in one day than what can feed their own families for year. In fact, the first family got wealthier, while the country got poorer. The people have a right to be angry that their president, their supposed worldwide representative, is not sharing in the country’s suffering, or at the very least, acting in a way that shows respect for her own people. It is linked to the bigger problem of the country’s wealthiest people flaunting their riches in the faces of the people who most of the time, got them that wealth. You would be angry too, wouldn’t you (well, we should actually be angry too in this country, the rich just do a better job in hiding it)? An justifiable law wouldn’t keep you from letting your president know how you felt.
With ALL THAT aside, the brutal treatment of the protesters is in no way justifiable. None of them had weapons. They were peacefully protesting. You only need to look at the pictures and videos to realize that. The violent and inhumane assault on the protesters should not be tolerated ANYWHERE on this planet. But at the same time, we should not be surprised. For years now, organizations have been trying to inform people about the human rights crisis in the Philippines. Legal organizers are being kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by elements of the military in their effort to silence the people’s call for change. With the abduction and torture of Filipino American, Melissa Roxas, more and more people realized the severity of the human rights crisis in the Philippines. With this recent incident, I can only hope more and more people realize what our sisters and brothers are truly facing in their pursuit of a decent life.
GMA can only repress the people for so long. From the very beginning, when she tried to repress the people, the people resisted. We must stand in solidarity with our mga kasama back in our homeland. For if our families weren’t able to leave the poverty they lived in (aka being forced out by your economic situation), that would have been us at those very gates, infuriated at the contradictions that face us.
To see more pictures and the collective response of the League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines, go here!