Tears after meeting with Aquino
MANILA, Philippines - It's not everyday that protesters get an audience with the President. But after their dialogue with President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, December 11, they cried.
The President broke their heart.
"Frustrated yung mga marchers... hindi malinaw yung tugon ng ating Pangulo para sa nilakad namin na hanggang dito," said Marlon Angara a fisherfolk leader in the town of Casiguran, Aurora, site of a controversial development project that residents say will deprive them of their land. (The marchers are frustrated. The President's response was lacking given our long walk to Manila.)
At least 120 residents marched 19 days ago from Casiguran to the Ateneo campus in Quezon City to dramatize their plight. The Ateneo community is supporting their cause.
They were planning to march to Malacañang to personally ask the President to put a stop to the Aurora Pacific Ecozone and Freeport Authority (APECO). But the President eventually went to Ateneo to meet with them.
He however defended the project and appealed to them to keep an open mind.
After the dialogue, some of the marchers started crying, others became hysteric. Even organizers of the march could not help but tear up.
The frustration was evident at the San Jose Seminary inside the Ateneo campus Tuesday afternoon. A few minutes after the dialogue formally came to a close, a group of marchers started chanting protest songs.
Bian Villanueva, an Ateneo graduate student, admitted he didn't exactly expect an immediate decision from Aquino.
"I was trying really hard to not cry but when [the marchers] started screaming, it was as if I felt some sort of shame--in the President who came from the same university [as I did]," he told Rappler.
"I felt like we let them down," he added.
Another student, Jeff Chua, said the moments following the dialogue were a blur. "But at the end of it all I guess what really stuck to all the people there was a sense of a failed expectation towards the president," he said.
What Aquino promised was a review of the situation. "We need to be fair. Kailangan masiguro muna bago natin i-cancel [ang project]. At the end of the day, I don't want to face the people of Aurora and realize na pwede pala yung APECO," Aquino added.
Aquino said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will spearhead an independent review of the project. Representatives from the marchers will be part of the review committee, as well as representatives from APECO.
APECO's key proponents are the Angaras -- Senator Edgardo Angara and his son, Liberal Party senatorial bet Aurora Rep Sonny Angara. The latter was a member of the government team that prosecuted then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Farmers said parts of the land covered by APECO are their ancestral domain. - Rappler.com