This article was written for Philippine Online Chronicles.
For the second time in the same month youth activists once again disrupted a speech by President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, this time in Iloilo City where the president was present last June 27 to inaugurate several government infrastructure projects.
President Aquino just began delivering his speech when four members of the youth group Anakbayan suddenly shouted slogans against the president after slipping past the tight security at the Iloilo River Esplanade in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
The youth activists ran up to 12 meters away from the stage before shouting, “Noynoy Aquino, tuta, pasista, pahirap sa masa, patalsikin!”
The president stopped his speech for a moment and then said, “maraming salamat po sa kanila.” The youthful protesters planned to show placards but were unable to do so as they were forcibly dragged by local police personnel away from the site.
No arrest was made but the four Anakbayan members suffered minor scratches after being manhandled by the security forces. The police personnel also slapped and choked one the protesters while whisking her out of the official program’s staging area.
Apart from the four youth activists, over a hundred members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Panay (Bayan-Panay) were also protesting by the roadside fronting the official ceremony before they were dispersed by anti-riot police.
The protesters are considering filing cases against the police.
According to Bryan Bosque, Anakbayan-Panay Regional Spokesman, the daring protest action sought to express the people’s growing anger against the Aquino administration’s continued implementation of anti-youth and anti-people policies.
“We register to the President our discontent, anger, disgust, to his incapacities, neglect, and abandonment to his responsibility to the Filipino people particularly here in the Province of Iloilo in the Island of Panay,” said the youth leader.
In particular, Bosque cited human rights violations in Panay Island, including the extrajudicial killings of fair trade advocates Romeo Capalla and Dionisio Garete last March and May of this year respectively.
He also pointed to the recent raid conducted by alleged military agents on the office of the Panay Center for Disaster Response, an NGO conducting disaster relief and rehabilitation programs for typhoon Yolanda victims in Northern Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Antique.
Bosque also decried the recent tuition, oil and food price increases, the impending privatization of public utilities like the Metro Iloilo Water District and public markets in Iloilo City, and the continuing neglect of communities hit by supertyphoon Yolanda.
This is the second time that youth activists disrupted a speech by the president since the Independence Day ceremony in Naga City. Unlike in Iloilo City, Ateneo de Naga student leader Emmanuel Pio Mijares was arrested by the police and slapped with criminal charges by the authorities.