ON THE STREETS IN MANILA
In the first photo above you can find me on the left side near the front of the march. A couple of hours later I was invited to speak to the crowd about the US "pivot" in the region.
The march and rally took place on the 16-lane Commonwealth Avenue that leads to the Filipino Congress building. Groups applied to hold the rally near the Congress as the president was delivering his SONA (State of the nation address) but the courts backed the police who had denied the permits.
In the top photo you can see a tree-lined median strip separating the two sides of the avenue. At one point the march broke through the razor wire blockade along the median strip and took control of both sides of the highway. This continued for about two hours but eventually more police moved in with water cannons and night sticks and began cracking heads. I saw some who had been beaten and were bleeding quite profusely.
It was predominately a young crowd and people lined the route watching from their homes and various stores along the long highway. The marchers were protesting the privatization of everything from water to public services. They demanded jobs and of course were vigorous in their opposition to the governments stated desire to make major increases in military spending - to modernize the military by buying weapons likely from the US.
After my talk at the rally I had to make my way and get ready to head to the airport. (That took 90 minutes in the massive traffic jams that are characteristic of Manila.)
Corazon was in a coffee shop while waiting for me and saw the chief of the cops sitting there coordinating the protest operation of more than 9,000 police. At one point she heard him yell into a phone "Maximum tolerance, maximum tolerance." President Aquino didn't want to have too much police violence spoil his day in the sun. There were tons of media covering the event.
As we made the drive to the airport Cora kept giving me a running translation of Aquino's SONA that was airing on the car radio. Some of his comments were really stupid such as when he was talking about energy. He mentioned alternative energy but only in a way to negate it as he said, "What do you do when there is no wind? What do you do when there is no sun?"
He talked about the police for more than 20 minutes and called for the purchase of 74,000 more guns for the police forces.
Lots of "public-private partnership" talk came out of Aquino's mouth as he clearly is a promoter of the corporate agenda of neo-liberalism.
I had a great experience in the Philippines and I must thanks those at the Ban the Bases Now conference and Cora for the great job of hosting me during my week there.
I am typing this from Darwin, Australia as we prepare for a talk tonight. I'll be joined by Denis Doherty (who was also in the Philippines) and a young woman activist from Guam who will be speaking in Darwin, Melbourne, and Sydney with me.