Human Rights

A siege of Mendiola

I should have been at yesterday’s prayer march by the Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, if not for a previous badminton engagement with friends. I did cover the event when the program at Plaza Miranda started but left at the sight of an approaching rain. The sky did clear, eventually, so the rallyists went on with the march. Little did they know then that another drenching would come their way later in Recto.

It was a classic moment in Philippine politics — a gathering of bishops, church people, oppositionists, militant leaders, a former vice president, a senator, and a respected former politician and TV personality being violently dispersed by water cannons. The ailing Tito Guingona, interviewed on TV, was fuming at the utter disrespect of their right to peacably march to Recto. A footage saw him being drenched by water as he hang on to Ka Satur Ocampo. TV also showed Jamby Madrigal in her new wet look, stunned and speechless to say anything on camera.

Everybody, including the bishops, got a taste of the putrid water of Manila’s Finest. They also got their first lesson on State Terrorism, GMA-style.

The day before, youth and students from Anakbayan and other militant youth groups had their own share of drenching. But while Guingona’s were mercifully gentler (the commanding officer admitted as much, saying their water cannons were on “low pressure,” in consideration of the big-shot rallyists), the dispersal of youth rallyists featured extensive use of truncheons, good ‘ole fists and boots for beating, water cannons (on maximum pressure), and was capped off with mandhandling and arrest of nine protesters.

For a brief moment (an hour, I think) it was the 70s all over again in Recto (although it was Azcarraga back then) las October 13 — students and youth battling anti-riot cops.

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