We, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students of the Philippines and College Editors Guild of the Philippines condemn in the strongest terms the violent dispersal and mass arrests of the youth rally at the Malacañang gates by elements of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the Manila Police District - Philippine National Police yesterday, August 19.
What happened at the Malacañang gates is an exaggerated use of force against the youth and students. At the moment we reached Gate 7 of Malacañang, elements of the PSG and PNP immediately welcomed us with blows and nightsticks. Some of them were not even in uniform. Negotiations went underway only after they have arrested 20 of our fellow students and 17 of us have suffered mild to serious physical injuries.
They were like rabid dogs hitting many of our fellow students in the face, abdomen, some even pinning them to the ground like common criminals. Those who have fallen were stepped on by the perpetrators like they were putting off cigarette butts. Female students were harassed by un-uniformed elements which held and pulled their clothes off, almost getting them undressed.
Our message is clear: we are enraged over Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s corrupt practices and tyrannical rule. Shame on this government who has the gall of lavishing millions for foreign trips and banquets while raking millions in corruption, one after another ever since she came into power.
We want justice! The impunity of state forces in committing violence must be stopped. We want justice and let the callous Arroyo government accountable for the grand malversation of public funds in history.
Let this be a warning to the Arroyo government: she was put into power by People Power, an event she has constantly insulted and desecrated. Now we say, we can pull her down through People Power, again.
Tomorrow, we commemorate Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino’s martyrdom, who said “The Filipino is worth dying for.” Today, we say yes, the Filipinos are worth fighting for.
As we face this tyrant, we the youth, are very conscious and aware that the last nine months might not be the last as Arroyo pushes for term extension. And we are ready to stage a storm again, in the gates of Malacañang and beyond.
Joint Statement of Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students of the Philippines and College Editors Guild of the Philippines (August 20, 2009)
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila, PHILIPPINES
24 August 09
We are writing with deep concern about the violence against innocent youth and students, on 19 August, in which 17 of the students suffered mild to serious injuries.
On 19 August 2009, a group of students gathered in front of the Gate 7 of Malacañang to attend a mass rally. Although the area of Gate 7 has been designated as “no rally zone” since 2006, it is groundless for the police force to attack unarmed rally participants. We are shocked to learn that many of the students were even attacked in their faces and abdomen while female youth were sexual harassed by some un-uniformed persons. We are disappointed by this behaviour of the law-enforcing agencies. The youths were only asking for an incorruptible and responsible government. A rally organized in a “no rally zone” is a sign showing the extent of outrage and intolerance of people about the performance of the government and the widespread poverty in the country.
Please be reminded that the Philippine government is one of the signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thus, the government is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions. Article 19 of ICCPR states that, “Every one shall have right to hold opinions without interference”, and Article 21, “The rights of peaceful assembly shall be recognized.” As the students in the rally site did not threaten public health and morals, the police should never disperse them with excessive arm force. Also, the arrested was held for almost an hour and their legal consultants were barred from checking their well-being. Neither were the detainees explained the Miranda Rights properly during the interrogation.
No civilized government would suppress dissidents by violent dispersal and arbitrary arrest. We urge you to: release the arrested students immediately and unconditionally; and investigate and prosecute the police elements and commanding officer who were involved in the violent dispersal and arrests.
Thanks for your attention and we look forward to your favourable response to the matter.
Irene Koo, Human Rights Section
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines,
Director General Jesus Versos, Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP),
Hon. Leila de Lima, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights,
Hon. Agnes Devanadera, Secretary, Department of Justice,
Nieves Confesor, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,
Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and
Ms. Margret Sekaggya, Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
World Student Christian Federation - Asia-Pacific Regional Office
The Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM) stands in solidarity with members of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, the League of Filipino Students, and other activists who were treated violently and arrested during a peaceful protest against corrupt government spending on August 19, 2009.
The Student Christian Movement (SCM) is an ecumenical network of student collectives engaged in spirituality and progressive social justice issues at universities across Canada. SCM Canada strives to be a healing community, embraces radical ecumenism and interfaith work, acts in solidarity with the oppressed, resists structures of domination, and works for justice in its varied forms and settings.
We understand that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the Manila Police District - Philippine National Police used unnecessary, inhumane tactics to end a peaceful, student protest outside of the Malacañang gates in Manila. This involved the use of nightsticks, sexual harassment and undressing of female students, and injury-inflicting body pinning. These actions left 17 students with mild to serious injuries and 20 students are currently in custody.
The purpose of the rally was to denounce and bring awareness to the excessive spending during President Arroyo’s tour to the United States in early August. The dinner bills alone from this tour totalled over $40,000 USD. This excessive spending is clearly inappropriate and demonstrates a lack of regard for impoverished Filipino/as and an unsuitable use of public funds. This same unjust treatment of citizens is also seen in the way the student protestors were treated and in the overall suppression of public critique.
We demand for the release and clearance of any charges for the 20 student protestors and for a transparent investigation of the policing practices used on this occasion and in general. As a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, we request that the Philippines live up to its stated commitments and ensure a peaceful existence for all citizens, as well as its constitutional guarantee of the right to assemble and freedom of speech (found in Article 3, Section 4 of the constitution of the Philippines).
As the Student Christian Movement of Canada, we believe that efforts to hold governments accountable and to make their spending and actions known are necessary for a healthy democracy and we endeavour to do this also with our own government in Canada. We are deeply saddened by the treatment of our fellow students in the Philippines and offer our deepest prayers and support in the hope that this situation will be rectified and not repeated in the future.
By proclaiming God’s preferential option for the poor and marginalized, we act in solidarity with the oppressed to resist structures of domination and realize justice in this world. (SCM Living Prayer Mission Statement)
As partners in the cause of justice and societal transformation,
Statement passed by full consensus of the elected General Board of the Student Christian Movement of Canada