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Consolidating Consensus, Advancing People’s Struggles and Building Alternatives
Alab Katipunan, which is a member of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and People’s Forum on APEC (PFA) 2015 and of which the Bukluran ng Progresibong Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (BPMP) is an affiliate member, strongly denounce the general condition of state repression in the name of corporations and agri-business which attended the hosting of several preparatory meetings of the Asia-Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Iloilo City on September 23-October 6, 2015.
Such condition of state repression takes the form of virtual police and military control of Iloilo City which prevents concerned groups from exercising their fundamental freedom of expression and of assembly by denying the issuance of rally permits, putting up police checkpoints and barricades around the suburbs and downtown Iloilo City, and provoking violent dispersals of peaceful rallies. In denying the issuance of rally permit, the fundamental freedom of expression and of assembly are in effect banned, as “no permit, no rally” has been officially declared by the Local Government.
The violent dispersal that provoked the clash between members of BPMP, Alab-Katipunan, FDC and PFA2015 on October 4, 2015 from Sambag, Jaro and at the vicinity of Jaro Plaza on the occasion of the holding of the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and Blue Economy is but an outcome of this policy.
While we regret the incident to have happened and ask the understanding of PNP elements who may have been hurt by simply following orders, we are condemning the callous policy of repression by the government to protect corporate profit.
Our members were injured in the ensuing commotion instigated by PNP in full riot gear who started shoving our ranks with their riot shields and bludgeoning the heads of farmers and youth with their truncheons. We are currently processing the medico-legal documentations of our members who suffered from the violent dispersal.
This state repression was not only manifested by the use of violence but also by the targeted illegal arrest of BPMP’s National Chairman, Mr. Joel Gepaya while he was being interviewed by media when the violent dispersal was initiated. As of the moment, Mr. Gepaya is still detained at Jaro Police Station 3 without any charges being filed.
May we explain the events leading to this unfortunate incident:
(1) We filed for a rally permit dated September 18, 2015 asking for Jaro plaza as our venue and a march along the major thoroughfares of Iloilo City as we used to do;
(2) As permit process goes, we had our application first cleared by the city police office and traffic management office. At first, this was denied and not even officially received despite our insistence that it be received. We kept on following up, only to be told to go to later to go to the mayor’s office first for approval;
(3) We went to the City Mayor’s Office and again the permit was denied and not even officially received;
(4) On September 27, 2015 PNP/ICPO called up Mr. Joel Gepaya that the permit has been cleared by their office but still needed to be approved by the Mayor’s Office. Mr. Gepaya was then advised by the PNP officer in-charge to march along the Diversion Road which is much wider than Lopez Jaena Street. Upon following up with the Mayor’s Office yet again, the application was DENIED AND NOT EVEN OFFICIALLY RECEIVED and were instead simply given a copy of Martial Law-era Public Assembly Act and SP Resolution designating La Paz Plaza as the Freedom Park where rallies can be held without permit. Please note that not even during the most repressive Martial Law years that a single political rally was staged at La Paz Plaza because it is very isolated, to be unseen and unheard - a symbol of martial repression and acceding to it is like acceding to martial law.
(5) So with Clearance provided by the PNP, we proceeded with the planned rally of our 5,000 members and supporters on October 4, 2015. Along the way, our contingents were harassed, deliberately held, delayed and intimidated. In some checkpoints, the PNP personnel demanded that our members get off the vehicles for body searches which our members pointed out as patently illegal. Suffice it to say, many of our contingents did not make it to the rally.
(6) We assembled at Ungka, Pavia at the outskirts of the city then proceeded along the Diversion Road as earlier advised by the PNP/ICPO only to be met by a thick phalanx of anti-riot police and fire-trucks. The PNP forcefully diverted and led our marchers via Lopez Jaena Street to Jaro Plaza only to be confronted again with a barricade of PNP personnel and their mobile patrol vehicles at the junction of Lopez Jaena and El 98 Street.
(7) We then turned along El 98 Street and were confronted yet again by another phalanx of anti-riot police, 2 military trucks and other vehicles beside Jaro Cathedral. We then stop to wait for the rest of our delegation as most marchers had been slowed down by the continuous drizzle. As we restarted our march, the phalanx of fully clad anti-riot police started moving towards us, shoving our ranks with their shields, which we confronted bare body and shoulder against shields, truncheons, helmets and body armor. It was then that the police started to hit us with their truncheons against which we bravely defended ourselves. As some PNP personnel who were just following orders may have been hurt, so were many of our members who have no body protection whatsoever.
So, why we have to stage a rally? The specific ongoing APEC event is the High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security of which the earlier High Level Policy Dialogue on Biotechnology is part of. As farmers, rural and urban workers, youth and women who are the direct stakeholders in food production as well as consumption, we have AS MUCH OR EVEN MORE RIGHT TO BE HEARD ON THE ISSUE than the so-called experts, corporate stockholders of biotech and agribusiness and officials of governments. The farmers and consumers are not represented in their meetings. (Please see attached separate statement on this.)
Ironically, APEC 2015’s by-word is INCLUSIVE GROWTH, but their practice is total exclusion of the majority.
Why did this incident happen? It is because the political and PNP leadership are protecting the interests of biotech, agchem and agribusiness corporations more than the survival and interests of poor farmers, rural workers and consumers. They are even willing to repress the people’s fundamental freedoms as enshrined in our Constitution, which they have sworn to protect if only to serve this purpose.
For the political and PNP leadership as well as some media outlets to simply reduce the mass demonstration of the people’s agenda as a “disturbance” and the protesters as “mere troublemakers and disrespectful” causing “embarrassment to the sterling record in their enforcement of their version of “peace and order” is either deliberate diversion or complete unfamiliarity or worse, ignorance, of biotechnology and food security issues confronting the world today. This is an issue of grave relevance for all humanity, which pits corporate greed and profit on one hand, and people and communities survival on the other.
Lastly, to infuse regionalism as another form of diversion of the issue, by singling out a certain leader as “alog” which caused “trouble” to an otherwise peaceful Ilonggos is to us, very narrow proposition and completely unacceptable. It is just like saying that the PNP Chief, the different PNP national directorates, or other regions have nothing to do with the affairs of Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO). For all we know, the PNP Chief was also here and that units from other parts of the country are augmenting the local PNP. Like the PNP, ours are also national organizations and that decisions of individuals are not arbitrary but in accordance with the mandate of the organization.
BPMP – Bukluran ng Progresibong Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
FDC – Freedom From Debt Coalition
PFA2015 – People’s Forum on APEC 2015
October 5, 2015
Photo Credits by: Alab Katipunan