Independence Day Protesters Cry Harassment by Soldiers

Jun. 12, 2006

By Cheryll D. Fiel

DAVAO CITY — Protesters from the various provinces in the region who joined the Independence Day rally today, June 12, denounced the military for harassing them and delaying them from joining their activities in the city.

Lisa Tindasan, 50, who had to bring her five-year-old grandson with her to the march because no else was going to take care of him, was in one of the vehicles held by the Task Force Davao (TFD) at the Tibungco checkpoint for more than three hours. She was with other protesters from Compostela Valley province.

Throughout the day, soldiers manning the TFD checkpoint in Tibungco ordered male commuters to disembark from their vehicles for inspection. Passengers viewed the exercise as harassment, more than anything else.

“We were left under the sun the whole time, hungry and thirsty, Tindasan complained. The military, she said, checked their bags and asked for the registration papers of the vehicles.

Normally, soldiers at the checkpoint at Tibungco would just ask drivers to roll down their windows and wave them through. But today was different. TFD chief Eduardo del Rosario, who is known for his displeasure toward cause-oriented groups, said what the TFD did was part of its standard operating procedures and that it was for the safety of the rallyists.

“We received reports that the rally will be infiltrated by armed infiltrators,” del Rosario said in an interview with a local television, using a standard line by the military each time groups take to the streets.

Ariel Casilao, secretary-general of Bayan, which led the protest march, fumed at del Rosario. “He cannot fool us, he told The truth is, their real intention was really to delay and harass us.”

Organizers estimated the crowd at the rally at 6,000. Protesters came from Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur. The march started at the Freedom Park and ended at the Centennial Park near the City Hall.

The TFD checkpoint delayed the program for three hours, prompting the speakers to cut short their speeches. Some were not even able to speak as they had to cut it off because of a scheduled Mass at the nearby San Pedro Church.

At the rally, speakers lambasted the Arroyo administration. They called the country’s Independence Day a big sham, especially since the Arroyo government has been proposing constitutional changes that, according to them, would be a sellout of the national patrimony to foreign interests.

Bayan Muna congressman Joel Virador, in his speech, said people have to fight hard again for their sovereignty. “Balikon nato ang kasaysaysan sa pakigbisog kay nagabalik pud ang kahimtang sa katawhan,” he said.

The rally was also an opportunity for the protesters to vent their indignation over the continuing killing of civilians. “Killed under this administration are people who are known to oppose Arroyo’s anti-people policies,” said Kelly Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan, the human-rights group.

Meanwhile, indignation rallies were also held simultaneously in other provinces and cities in Mindanao. Crowd estimates in Butuan City was placed at 1,000, some 600 in Surigao City, 400 in Tandag, 500 in Mangagoy, in Surigao del Sur, and 650 in Cagayan de Oro City. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

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