June 11, 2009 02:38:00
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Public indignation over the constituent assembly (Con-ass) took a violent twist in Dumaguete City when unidentified men shot and killed a peasant leader shortly after he addressed a crowd at 4 p.m.
Fermin Lorico, leader of the militant Kahugpongan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (Kaugmaon), was ambushed along San Jose Extension in Barangay (Village) Taclobo, said Supt. Leopoldo Cabanag, the city police chief.
Lorico, a native of Bayawan City and active Catholic lay minister, was on his way to the office of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) to meet members of human rights organizations, Kaugmaon spokesperson Juliet Ragay said.
Like in Metro Manila, protest rallies and marches in key cities nationwide Wednesday condemned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies in the House of Representatives for pushing through with their plan to amend the 1987 Constitution through a Con-ass.
Protest actions elsewhere were generally peaceful. Some groups even tagged Charter change (Cha-cha) as a more dangerous threat to the people than the Influenza A(H1N1) virus, while others vowed to come out in even bigger numbers on Independence Day on Friday.
Lagdameo in black
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), urged lawmakers who are insisting on Con-ass to heed the nationwide protests.
“The rallies show the strong sentiments of the people. They do not want our present government to tamper with our Constitution without a signal from the people themselves,” Lagdameo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer at the sidelines of the rally at the provincial capitol in Iloilo City.
“They should harken to the protests of the people because they are (supposed to be) the representatives of the people,” said Lagdameo, who came in an all-black clerical attire in line with the “Black Wednesday” theme of the protest action.
In Pampanga province, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, leader of the Jesus is Lord Movement, asked Ms Arroyo to restore sanity in her administration amid moves by her allies to tinker with the Constitution and corruption scandals hounding her.
‘Better word for shameless’
House Resolution No. 1109, which authorizes the lower chamber to convene a Senate-less constituent assembly, was a “shameless display of arrogance,” Villanueva told reporters in the City of San Fernando on Wednesday.
“If there’s even a better word than shameless, I will not hesitate to use it just to say that the resurrection of Charter change is a no-delicadeza move,” he said.
Villanueva, who ran for president and lost in 2004, said the protests around the country was an occasion for all democracy loving Filipinos “to show unity and solidarity against the threat on the nation’s soul and spirit.”
“Let us turn this deplorable manipulation around and make it an opportunity for us to show that we are going to stand up for our rights and freedom, and nothing is going to stop us,” he said.
Bacolod church bells toll
In Bacolod City, about 1,000 people marched to the plaza amid the tolling of bells from the San Sebastian Cathedral that was decked in red cloth as a sign of protest.
Bishop Vicente Navarra came with priests and nuns for the protest led by the coalition Negrenses United Against Constituent Assembly (Nunca).
In Baguio City, about 100 people led by the Tongtongan Ti Umili and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance marched on Session Road.
Members of the Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio shouted: “Imbyerna ang masa, tsugiin na si Gloria (The people are angry, President Macapagal-Arroyo should go)!”
Manuel Loste, Bayan Muna national vice chair, said people should not trust the Arroyo administration when it promised that no proposal for term extension would be introduced in Charter amendments.
He said Ms Arroyo had lost her political credibility after she turned back on her promise made in Baguio City in 2002 that she would not run for president in the 2004 elections.
Bayan members in Central Luzon, as well as Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, went to the protest rally in Makati City. The Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya will hold its protest actions on Friday in major cities in the region.
In a phone interview, Panlilio challenged legislators and other local officials supporting Con-ass to turn the controversy as a “time to restore faith.”
He urged officials to be the “voice of the people, to abandon personal interests and cast patronage ambition aside.”
Police checkpoints were set up in major thoroughfares to screen illegal firearms and weapons, said Chief Supt. Leon Nilo de la Cruz, regional police director.
Protesters in Southern Tagalog had props depicting Ms Arroyo and pro-Cha-cha congressmen as pigs infected with a new strain of swine flu dubbed “Influenza G (C-H-A-2)” or the “Gloria forever virus.”
Christine Macabetcha, Bayan deputy secretary general in the region, said Cha-cha was worse than any flu outbreak that every Filipino should be warned of.
“During Ms Arroyo’s term, almost 1,000 activists, journalists, and government critics have been extra-judicially killed,” she said.
In Legazpi City, militants marched on Washington Drive toward Peñaranda Park in front of the provincial capitol. They held placards bearing the faces of Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara and Rep. Reno Lim with “X” marks.
In Naga City, about 200 people gathered at the Plaza Quince Martires, built in honor of the 15 martyrs of Camarines Sur, to protest against HR 1109.
They also denounced Bicol lawmakers who signed the resolution, but excluded Rep. Liwayway Vinzons-Chato of Camarines Norte, Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella of Camarines Sur, Sen. Francis Escudero of Sorsogon, and Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay.
In Sorsogon City, some 500 people joined the street march, according to Paul Vincent Casilihan of Karapatan-Bicol.
Members of the party-list youth group Kabataan in Cebu City wore masks saying “No to Cha Cha virus” during a march from Fuente Osmeña to the Malacañang sa Sugbo at the port area.
Former Mayor Gilbert Wagas of Compostela town in Cebu sported a bald head to express his dismay over Con-ass.
Nineteen organizations launched a coalition that would come up with measures to stop the House plan.
In Tacloban City, protesters wore black T-shirts to express their indignation.
Jebril Gil Sida, Kabataan regional spokesperson, said a signature campaign had been started at the University of the Philippines-Tacloban.
Torches lit up Davao City as militant, religious, student and nongovernment groups marched. They were joined by thousands of farmers from Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley.
A concert by artists and students under the umbrella of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) was scheduled later in the evening.
Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad said the people should “act now, otherwise, we would be waking up to a day without the sunshine of our freedoms.”
In General Santos City, hundreds of people led by Bayan, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente marched around the city and staged a rally in front of KCC Mall.
Edward Flores, Bayan spokesperson, said a bigger rally would be held when Ms Arroyo visits Koronadal City Friday.
Hundreds of people also joined the rally in Cagayan de Oro City. Reports from Romy Amarado, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Jhunnex Napallacan, Iste Sesante Leopoldo and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; Charlene Cayabyab and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Karen Lapitan, Maricar Cinco, Jonas Cabiles Soltes and Rey Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Aquiles Z. Zonio, Carlo Agamon and Riza P. Acac, Inquirer Mindanao