Black shirts, white balloons, Cerge Remonde and the Mendiola March Against Impunity

Posted: December 1, 2009 in Uncategorized
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photo by Roselle Pineda

Congratulations to all those who participated in today’s March Against Impunity! March for Justice!

A broad range of organizations were present at the rally, including leaders and memebers of the National Press Club, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, NUPL, Bayan, Gabriela, AFIMA, Conferedaton of ASEAN Journalists, the organization of press photographers headed by PDI’s Joan Bondoc, Pagbagbago represented by Fr. Joe Dizon and Director Bibeth Orteza, partylist groups led by Liza Maza, Rafael Mariano, and Satur Ocampo, employees of UNTV which lost four employees in the massacre, members of the Malacanang Press Corps, TV producer and columnist Patricia Evangelista, former CHR commissioner and Muslim leader Atty.Nasser Marahomsalic, members of Actors Playground and many many individuals who said they had had enough of impunity.

We marched from UST and were met with the contingent of the NPC and UNTV who were all in black.

In front of the marchers were members of Actors Playground who carried three coffins behind a grieving “Inang Laya”.

Upon reaching Mendiola, the coffins were laid on the barbed-wire fence and Inang Laya sat on the pavement. then activists portraying the murdered women, journalists and lawyers started lying on the ground, in a tableau of the ampatuan killing field. A noise barrage was followed by a war dance between Inang Laya and a “warlord”.

The AFIMA led the protesters in releasing white balloons with the word Justice.

Members of the cultural group Ugatlahi laid cut outs of slain journalists, the bloodied contour of their bodies cut out from newspapers and laid out at the mendiola bridge.

It was the first time these groups banded together in a rally at Mendiola.

Midway through the program, the NPC president informed me and other participants that they were going to Malacanang to present a letter that would be received by Sec. Cerge Remonde. No problem there since that was their initiative.

However, before the NPC people could even reach Malacanang, Sec. Remonde came out to meet them and wanted to proceed to the rally site. The NPC people told me they warned Sec. Remonde that his presence at the rally would not be warmly received. Yet he proceeded to approach the stage.

Sensing tension among the audience, ka satur, liza and myself, along with some NPC officials, came up to meet sec. remonde hoping to figure out a way to diffuse the tense situation that was unfolding. unfortunately, before we could get going, he went up the stage, na wala sa usapan, and that aggravated the tension among the audience. what happened next was the uncontrollable,pent-up outrage of the people.

in hindsight, the incident could have been avoided if sec. remonde heeded the warning of the NPC and just received the letter in malacanang.

Truth be told, the organizers weren’t informed of and weren’t ready for his appearance. the organizers weren’t prepared to deal with the crowd’s reaction if he went up onstage. that’s why we sought to meet him first at the ground to bide time and figure out what to do next. alas, he went up the stage before the organizers could even confer. why he did that despite the warnings, only sec. remonde can explain. he obviously underestimated the people’s justified outrage over mrs. arroyo’s policies.

i do understand and recognize the different reactions of the participants regarding the incident. could the incident have end differently, maybe.  i’m looking at it from the point of view of someone who was there trying to sort out the situation as it unfolded.

despite that rather unexpected incident, what happened today at the protest was truly remarkable. the unity of the different groups is something we should be proud of, something we must sustain and develop. the broad call was clear from the start: “End Impunity! Justice Now!”

We salute the media groups, artists, lawyers, human rights advocates and other organizations that supported today’s march against impunity. we hope that it won’t be the last time folks will unite for our basic rights and freedoms. these are the issues and struggles that really matter and should be highlighted.

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