Water cannons are used by Manila police to disperse the protesters on Monday. (contributed photo)
MANILA – (UPDATE, 3:30 P.M) Dozens of protesters and six policemen were injured Monday when security forces forcibly dispersed, with truncheons and water cannons, a phalanx of anti-Trump activists who were trying to advance nearer the US Embassy as the 31st ASEAN Summit and related meetings opened a few kilometers away.
Militant groups and police authorities quickly traded accusations about who started the violence, with Manila police – backed by NCRPO chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde – saying video and drone footage clearly showed protesters rushing a police unit at the corner of Taft Avenue and Padre Faura to breach through a cordon leading to Roxas Boulevard, which was in total lockdown for the Summit events.
The event drew quick condemnation from the organizers of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum, which had been under way in Quezon City since the weekend, as a gathering of Southeast Asian peoples in parallel with their governments.
“We condemn the violent dispersal of a peaceful demonstration by people’s organizations and social movements against the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit as represented by Heads of States and governments that have imposed on the peoples of Southeast Asia a development model that has increased social inequalities and violated the human rights of the people,” said a statement sent to media by Dr. Ed Tadem, co-convenor of the ACSC/APF Philippine National Organizing Committee.
One of the protest leaders in Manila, former party-list representative Teddy Casiño, said in a radio interview that despite the dispersal, the mass actions will continue, and in fact, “we have a concluding activity tomorrow (Tuesday),” when most of the 31st ASEAN Summit, the East Asia Summit and related meetings are scheduled to end.
“Hindi na magpipilit na lumapit sa US embassy or PICC. Apat na araw na natin sinubukan [Protesters will no longer attempt to get near the US Embassy or the PICC],” Casiño said, referring to the attempts of various rally groups since Friday to mount protests near the two sites: the embassy, because of the visit of US President Donald Trump, and the Philippine International Convention Center, venue of most summit meetings.
Casiño said, “Ang isang pinag-iisipan na venue ay [One venue being considered is] Mendiola,” the historic street leading to Malacañang. He said they didn’t expect to be shooed away from Mendiola, since neither President Rodrigo Duterte and US President Trump are expected to be there on Tuesday.
The more important thing to accomplish, he explained, is to send the message that people condemn the “pagkatuta ni Duterte kay Trump [Duterte’s being a lapdog of Trump].”
Is this a peaceful rally? Albayalde asks protesters
At least six policemen were injured when ralliers rushed a civil distubance management unit of the Philippine National Police at the corner of Taft Avenue and Padre Faura Street, drone video provided by authorities showed.
Security forces were then prompted to train water cannons to stop the advancing protesters.
According to Chief Supt. Joel Coronel, Manila Police District director, “May anim [na pulis] na nasugatan dahil sa skirmish. Usually bruises at contusions. Naka-deploy pa rin sila; walang uwian dito kahit nasugatan. Binigyan ng first aid. Kahapon mayroon na po nahuli, na nagpilit [six cops got hurt, usually bruises and contusions. They remain deployed, no one goes home despite the injuries. Yesterday we already arrested some people who insisted on breaking through the security cordon].”.
Police director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the NCRPO, questioned the militant’s claims that they were only holding a peaceful mass action. “Pinupukpok [They were hitting the cops], video will show. What do you call that, a peaceful rally?”
Nonetheless, Albayalde said the security teams “are prepared for this. We prepared for the worst case.”
Albayalde said he was satisfied with the cops’ performance. “As you could see, none from our ranks retaliated. despite their injuries. This one has wounds, it’s swollen, see? And yet he doesn’t complain. You call this peaceful?”
The NCRPO chief also warned foreigneers joining the street protests “they can be deported” as “undesireable aliens” and they cannot return to the country.
He said those arrested had been trying to get to the PICC and the US embassy, “which we cannot allow. Naka-lock down Roxas Boulevard; nagpipilitan pa rin. Sinasaktan mga pulis para sila makalusot.They can conduct rally in a peaceful manner. Pero manakit ng tao, di na tama.”
Holding the rallies per se will not be stopped by the PNP, even if they do them overnight, said Albayalde. “They can stay forever if they want to. Pakiusapa natin, maging mahinahon at huwag maging bayolente. Di na makakalampas mga yan.”
The PNP-CIDG will file charges against the protesters they arrested.
While the militants have been focused on the US embassy and Trump, protest materials sent out for ASEAN week by other left-leaning groups have uniformly slammed “the US, China, and other imperialist states,” accusing them of being “in collusion to break down tariff and trade barriers and to push for all-out liberalization, and for unlimited plunder of our resources and further exploitation of labor.”
This framing, by Kabataan Representative Sarah I. Elago, predicted dire repercussions on young Filipinos. “For the youth, this also spells the seamless transfer and sellout of intellectual capital for the students and youth, as our education system is shaped to further meet the demands of their market through reforms such as K-to-12 and the academic calendar shift,” Elago said.
“Despite Duterte’s fake patriotic gestures and advances towards China and Russia, the US and the Philippines are warming up. Duterte’s meeting with Trump will rubber stamp his aspirations of a fascist dictatorship, in exchange for the opening up of US military bases for Balikatan exercises and other operations,” she added.
Earlier, similar protests were held in Clark Field, where about half of the world leaders and top officials attending the ASEAN events flew in at the weekend via the Clark International Airport.
Clark used to hold a major American air base – one of the US’ most important outside the mainland – which became its bulwark in the Asia-Pacific alongside the Subic naval base in Olongapo City. The US bases were ousted by a US Senate vote in 1991, ending nine decades of American military presence.
According to the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN) which led a protest rally at the Clark Gate in Angeles City, Pampanga, “Trump’s visit to Asia is to toughen the US’ Asia Pivot and further with its wars of aggression. A continuation of the US imperialist’s survival and its rivalry with China.
“While this year’s ASEAN will only reinforce the interests of every state to continue with the neoliberal policies and strengthen the competition between the US, China and other capitalist countries. It will not tackle the real people’s issues.”