MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada gave the Lumad who are staging a demonstration at Liwasang Bonifacio until 6 pm Friday, November 13, to disperse and give way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit preparations.
The protest is part of #Manilakbayan, a series of demonstrations against the government's alleged human rights abuses and militarization of indigenous peoples in Mindanao, and against the APEC summit. The participants, called Manilakbayanis, have journeyed from their homes in Mindanao to have their voices heard.
According to reports on the ground, there were negotiations between the protesters and the local police at around 12 noon to allow them to stay. The Lumad were able to speak with Estrada at city hall, but their request to continue their rally could not be accommodated.
"They have until 6 pm [today]," Estrada said, emphasizing that those were the orders from Malacañang.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes posted in his Facebook account the copy of the protest permit. While the groups applied to hold the demonstration from October 26 to November 22, their permit was amended to be allowed only until November 12.
APEC is priority
Liwasang Bonifacio, where the Lumad held their protest, is one of the "freedom parks" of Manila.
In Section 15 of the Public Assembly Act of 1985, freedom parks are defined as places "where demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time without the need of any prior permit."
"Liwasang Bonifacio is a freedom park. Malacanang and the PNP cannot disperse or evict the Lumad," Reyes added.
The clearing of Liwasang Bonifacio is due to the upcoming APEC Summit, where leaders from some of the world's biggest and most powerful economies will meet in Manila.
“Tinatanggal nila kaming mga magmumukhang basura sa mga mata ng mga APEC leaders,” said Kerlan Fagaran, one of the #Manilakbayan organizers, about the government’s preparations.
(We are being asked to leave because we would look like trash in the eyes of world leaders.)
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave a strict "no permit, no rally" order for the duration of APEC.
“Although our laws ensure the free exercise of the people's right to peaceably assemble and petition the government, we would like to reiterate that we have to observe proper guidelines including seeking permits to conduct public rallies,” DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento in a press statement.
The Lumad are now marching to Mendiola to continue their protest there. The police guaranteed that they will secure the Lumad's march to Mendiola.
Reyes posted on Facebook: "Today is the last day the Lumad will be allowed to camp out at Liwasang Bonfacio, upon orders of Malacañang. The reason given for this is the APEC event next week. The Aquino government cares more for the interests of foreign big business and image-building than the actual needs of its people." – David Lozada and Bea Orante/ Rappler.com