Scores were injured when protesters scuffled with policemen Thursday, the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Hundreds of rallyists, mostly belonging to militant groups, marched in defiance of the “no permit, no rally” policy and tried to break through phalanxes of policemen to get near the Philippine International Convention Center where the world leaders gathered.
Clashes erupted when the rallyists were blocked by anti-riot policemen at the intersections of Roxas Boulevard-Buendia Avenue and Roxas Boulevard-Vito Cruz Street. Some rallyists hurled stones at the baton-wielding policemen.
Some of the protesters, including children, women and senior citizens, were injured during the scuffle. The injured protesters were immediately attended to by their own team of paramedics.
About 22 people were treated for their injuries and five of them were rushed to the Philippine General Hospital because of severe wounds.
At least one policeman was injured when he was hit by a stone on the face.
The police used water cannons and played loud music to disperse the protesters. They also played loud music to drown out the slogans being shouted by the demonstrators, further infuriating the organizers.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson Teddy Casiño condemned the action against the demonstrators.
“Once again, police have shown contempt for the people’s right to peaceful assembly and free speech. Not only did they prevent protesters from getting close to the APEC venue, which is the target of their message, but they also played loud music to drown out the message of truth and struggle against APEC,” Casiño told The Manila Times.
Aside from Casiño, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and former congressman Satur Ocampo joined the mass rallies.
Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and APEC Security Task Force, maintained that while the police observed maximum tolerance, charges will be filed against the demonstrators who violated the law.
“Let me reiterate our unequivocal position that any public assembly outside of the designated freedom parks is deemed illegal and will be addressed accordingly,” Mayor said in a statement. “Some people would be charged. With this kind of situation where some of our policemen were injured, it is just right to file charges against them.”
Around 30,000 soldiers and policemen were deployed around Metro Manila during the summit.
Several policemen were also hurt during separate rallies held earlier at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila and Buendia Ave. in Pasay City.
Yesterday, hundreds of fishermen from the provinces of Rizal, Batangas, Cavite, Navotas City and Eastern Visayas region joined the massive protests led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
“For 26 years of existence of this APEC, 66 percent of our population or a total of 67 million Filipinos are living in less than P100 a day. Fisherfolk remains poorest of the poor courtesy of the neo-liberalization policy in the fishing industry that kills the local fish production,” Salvador France, vice chairperson of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, said in a statement.
France said their sector has the highest poverty incidence at 39.2 percent.
“Small-fisherfolk suffers from chronic hunger due to fishing programs and policies implemented by the government. The 17-year old Fisheries Code of 1998 which was designed to benefit fishing monopolies aggravated the food insecurity in the fishing sector. The fisheries law legitimized the large commercial fishing vessels and fishing monopolies that are based on export to plunder our seas,” he said.
“This APEC Leader’s Meeting is nothing but another tit-for-tat of global leaders on how the rich nations like the United States will further exploit the underdeveloped countries like the Philippines under the guise of ‘building inclusive economies and building a better world’,” France said.