The Independence Day Protests: An Eyewitness Account

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By Jose Paulo Gaborni

June 12, 2014 was a day of angst by people yearning for freedom against corrupt bureaucrats and against a system that protects them.

Most of these protesters marched from the US Embassy up to Liwasang Bonifacio, and eventually to Mendiola, and some raised posters featuring pictures of senators Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, as well as secretaries Abad and Alcala.

With their latest chants like “Noynoy Aquino, Pork Barrel King!” and “Pork Barrel tanggalin, Noynoy patalsikin!”, protesters from different organizations also called for Aquino’s ouster, citing his negligence in running state affairs, coddling corrupt bureaucrats with the latest Pork Barrel scam, and in failing to implement agrarian reform in Hacienda Luisita and other estates owned by the ruling classes.

The protest march includes an effigy of a pig reminiscent of the golden calf, paraded to the amusement of onlookers. It was first shown in last year’s anti-pork demonstration in Makati’s Ayala triangle.

Other than BAYAN, groups like Victims Against Crime and Corruption, as well as individuals like Bishop Oscar Cruz, NBN-ZTE Whistleblower Jun Lozada, Mae “Juana Change” Paner, and Blogger Tonyo Cruz expressed disgust against the present administration and the slow handling of justice against Napoles and corrupt bureaucrats.

Scarborough Shoal, EDCA, and costumed protest at US Embassy

Other than Pork Barrel, issues like the Scarborough Shoal and West Philippine sea were being discussed, stressing Philippine sovereignty over the contested rocks, shoals, and isles west of Palawan, as former Congressman Teddy Casiño said that BAYAN rejects “incursions of China in our Exclusive Economic Zone,” but also opposes a new agreement that will allow US troops to establish facilities inside Philippine military bases.

“All these are threats to our independence and sovereignty and we are here to defend them,” he said.

And prior to the march towards Liwasan, a group of protesters, dressed as Katipuneros, led the way in marching with the rest after a near-scuffle with the cops at the US Embassy, with the latter confiscating some of the props like wooden guns and bolos.

The protest near the US Embassy was about the agreements that protesters described as unequal and one sided, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, and the latest Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

People may misunderstand, if not altogether disregard the protests regardless of the topics discussed. Oftentimes, there are those trying to describe those protesters subjectively as ‘pro-Chinese’.

After the country celebrated its day of freedom against colonizers, the following questions are begging to be asked: What is independence if it means relying on a bigger country, rather than standing up on your own?

What is freedom if it means acting like a mendicant, aside from having a system that is indeed corrupt, with officials siphoning off money from the people?

Save for those who actually care about national concerns, do the people really care about national consciousness save for Pacquiao’s boxing rematches and the occasional beauty contests? Vietnam had similar problems with China but it resisted its northern neighbor on its own.

The struggle continues, as age-old problems continue to persist. Protests will still continue, as peasants still have no land, workers keep asking for their bread, and as people wish an end to all corruption, and for as long as this nation is still yearning for a just and lasting peace.

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