Mindanawon activists off to Cebu for ASEAN summit protests

Ariel Casiple, secretary general of BAYAN-Southern Mindanao, said they will raise issues about the real situation of poverty and security in Mindanao.


Casiple said there is a need to hold a protest for the peculiar situation of Mindanao. According to him, security issues like counter-terrorism, which is a problem in Mindanao, will also be tackled in the summit, apart from economic cooperation.


The group held a send-off press conference Thursday to highlight their intentions for the protest. The group will join some 5,000 protesters from all over the country, but mostly from the islands of Cebu and Bohol, in a "peaceful protest" dubbed as "Voyagers for Peace".


Casiple said they will expose the United States' invisible hand in the summit pushing for its own self-interest on trade liberalization and war on terrorism.


He said the US, one of the country dialogue partners of the 10-member ASEAN regional group, actually plays a crucial and active role.


The US, he pointed out, is desperate to seek partnership with the ASEAN in its failure in the Doha round talks in 2005 for free trade among World Trade Organization members.


Casiple said the US is also convincing the ASEAN countries to back its war on terrorism campaign, which has lost steam in the US homeland.


He said the US wants to justify military intervention in the region by pushing for its trademark "war on terrorism". Casiple added that the US's campaign is fraught with human rights violations, which could add more to violations already experienced by cultural and political minorities in the region.


Casiple said they also wanted to let the world know that the Arroyo administration is not fit to host the regional summit. "It has no moral and political ascendancy as host," he said.


The group accused the Arroyo administration of having a questionable legitimacy stained with corruption charges. Casiple said the administration has also resorted to "dictatorial" and "draconian" measures to suppress people’s rights.


He said it does not augur well with the theme of the summit: "One Caring and Sharing Community".


Casiple said they will hold protests actions "peacefully" and within allowable venues, and will avoid being violently dispersed.


"We will protest as it is constitutional, but we will do it peacefully," he said.


"But hopefully we could reach Cebu. There had been a lot of obstacles put against would-be protesters from entering the island," he said.


The group, Casiple said, would stage protest actions up to the last day of the week-long summits.