Filipinos fight for their rights
WORLD NEWS - In April numerous gatherings were held in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. Health organizations, social movements, individuals from all over the country and the urban poor no longer accept the unhealthy policies of the Aquino government and demand Aquino to resign. Our 21bis-reporter Elisse, who is doing her internship at Manila, tells us the story firsthand.
On April 10, at Plaza Salamanca, a group consisting of health organizations held a public discussion to question the decisions the administration under Aquino has made so far. Since the presidential elections in 2010, a lot has changed. However, not a lot of those changes were beneficial to the people.
Speakers from different sectors showed their views and insights on matters such as the blood massacre in Mamasapano, the privatization of the health sector and the continuous rise of basic utility prices.
On January 25 44 members of the police force were killed in Mamasapano (Mindanao) during an operation from the national police against local rebels. Also more than ten innocent residents died. Collateral damage is what it is called by the armed forces. A giant wave of sympathy for the victims rose in the Philippines. There was uncertainty about the circumstances in which the victims died. President Aquino started an investigation. But he did not speak about his own accountability for the incident. Numerous press conferences revealed that Aquino’s story had changed over time. He tried to conceal details about the Mamasapano clash and abruptly ended the trial.
Kenneth Guda, editor in chief of Pinoy Weekly, visited Mamasapano in February to investigate the case himself. Guda stresses multiple points of evidence for Aquino’s accountability for the Mamasapano incident. During his stay in the region, Guda conducted interviews in the communities to hear what the witnesses had to say. Firstly he discovered that military drones, coming from the US government, were spotted in the communities one week before the incident. He was also told that there was an electric black-out in the community one day before the blood massacre. This was presumably used as a cover-up for the armed forces to invade the community. Thirdly, Guda mentioned the numerous civilian casualties. Why did the army’s deaths receive so much attention from the media, and the civilian killings so little? There was a 21-year-old farmer who got killed. The boy went to Mamasapano to charge his cellphone, but he never returned. The next day, locals found his body with his hands tied. Another point which raises the suspicion of the government’s involvement is the fact that politicians didn’t want a public discussion anymore as soon as questions began to rise about the involvement of the US army in the combat. 'The Filipinos seem to have sacrificed their people for the sake of the US War on Terror. Although the mainstream media seem to have forgotten about it, the war did not end after the Mamasapano incident,' Guda says. '200,000 residents in Mindanao are still in danger.'
A Moro is a terrorist
Bai Ali Indayla, the Secretary General of Kawagib, the organization for Moro Human Rights, explained that the information the mainstream media is bringing out about Mindanao only makes the situation worse for the Moro people. 'If I tell someone I come from Mindanao, everyone thinks I’m a troublemaker and a terrorist. There is so much miseducation about Moro people. We have a long history of trying to free the land from colonizers, and we continue to struggle with obtaining freedom. A lot of Moro are still being displaced because they have to make room for multinational corporations.' This makes Indayla question the real interest of the US and the government in the area. It is one of the richest regions and has a lot of natural resources. However, Mindanao is still one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.
The privatization of the health sector is a huge problem for the Filipinos. Not only for the urban poor, but also for the people living in rural areas. Eleanor A. Jara, Executive Director of CHD (Child Health and Development), clarifies the current situation. 'The government continues to prioritize the private health sector rather than the public. For numerous Filipinos, it has become priceless to consult a doctor or go to the hospital.' An old man testifies: 'A friend had an accident. I accompanied him to the hospital. They said they couldn’t help him, let alone examine him, before he paid a sum of 10,000 PhP (more than €200). Aquino’s government is depluming all Filipinos.”
The debate could have gone on for many more hours. The list of violations made by the government, and thus Aquino, is endless. This is exactly why so many Filipinos stop undergoing his leadership, but decide to take action. They demand for Aquino to be held accountable for his actions, but moreover, they demand for him to resign. Joseph Carabeo, spokesperson for ‘RX: Aquino Resign Now!’ closes the gathering with the words: 'The country is in a very critical condition. We cannot wait anymore for Aquino to finish his term in 2016. He’s like a toxin that slowly kills the people. And as long as the toxin stays, the nation will continue to suffer.'
Text and photos: Elisse Lenaars