ACTIVISTS heckled President Benigno Aquino 3rd after he delivered his policy speech at the Columbia University’s World Leaders’ Forum on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
A statement from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) USA that was released to local media by Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said 35 protesters belonging to various affiliate groups caught Aquino off guard when he was challenged with questions on the pork barrel scandal, Typhoon Yolanda and human rights abuses in the Philippines.
The incident occurred just as Aquino was about to field questions after delivering his speech. A man and a woman who are both Filipino-Americans took turns in shouting at the President during the program.
A banner which read: “Oust Aquino, Pork Barrel King” was unfurled by the stage in front of the audience.
The woman scoffed at the President for his supposed intention to extend his term and for alleged human rights abuses in Hacienda Luisita, a vast sugar estate owned by the President’s family.
“Shame on you!” she shouted at Aquino as she was escorted out of the venue.
The man criticized Aquino for purchasing firearms for the military instead of buying food for poor people. He too was asked to leave the forum.
Aquino said he is used to being heckled, adding he is “ready to listen to anyone.’
A rally was held at the courtyard of the university where militants carrying placards continued shouting anti-Aquino slogans.
The protest action ended only when Aquino left the campus.
In Malacanang, spokesman Edwin Lacierda said such things happen and they are not surprised.
“It’s not surprising. In America there’s freedom of expression. It happened during question-and-answer [parts of a program]. It was something that happened to him before. He [Aquino] wanted to explain but the person did not want to hear the explanation. What’s the reason for explaining if the person doesn’t want to hear the explanation?” Lacierda told reporters.