Hundreds of students on Sunday staged a “unity walk for truth and accountability” to add heat to the growing public outrage over the killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) in Maguindanao last month.
Wearing armbands and shirts printed with “Truth and Accountability,” a message obviously addressed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, some 300 students started their walk at 6 a.m. from Luneta (Rizal Park) to Ermita Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of the massacred police officers.
The students called for the resignation of the President whom they described as incompetent and a liar for allegedly hiding vital information on the January 25 encounter between the SAF and combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Some of the students also wore T-shirts printed with “Nasaan ang Pangulo [Where is the President]?” a message to Aquino who is said to have failed to satisfy the cry for justice from the families, relatives and friends of the “Fallen 44.”
Various groups also gathered at the Our Lady of Edsa Shrine on Sunday to call for the ouster of Aquino.
The groups belonging to the “Edsa 2/22 Coalition” said Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano BelmonteJr. and their colleagues in Congress should also step down to enforce “system and reform change.”
Jose Malvar Villegas, founder of Citizens’ Crime Watch, warned that the country will face a bleak future if these officials do not resign.
Meanwhile, labor groups under the banner of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Partido Lakas ng Masa and Sanlakas BMP-PLM-Sanlakas expressed their unity and support to political forces calling for the removal of Aquino.
The President “deserves to be ousted, not just because of allegations about his incapacity to hold the highest office, but because he symbolizes the interests of landlords and capitalists whose greed for power and profit cause the misery and poverty of the Filipino majority,” BMP-PLM-Sanlakas said in a statement.
“Aquino is the personification of neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and labor contractualization that continue to wreak havoc on the lives and welfare of the people. [He] is the manifestation of the tyranny of political clans, brought about by the rotten and backward system of elite democracy,” it added.
The group said the Mamasapano incident is but the latest and strongest argument for the ouster of the President.
“The workers and the poor demand not just regime change but meaningful changes in Philippine society. We have learned the bitter lessons of the past EDSA upheaval,” it added.
According to BMP-PLM-Sanlakas, millions of workers, including the majority who are unorganized, are ready to support a movement to unseat an elitist President only if it also fights for meaningful reforms that would address their everyday problems.