PRESS RELEASE: Aquino’s answer to the demands of Mindanao’s indigenous people: Violent Dispersal!

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QUEZON CITY (Karapatan) — Violent dispersal was the response of the Aquino administration to the legitimate dissent of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao contingent during a protest outside Aquino’s house in Times-Street in Quezon City.

“Instead of addressing the demands of the Mindanaoans who traveled afar to register the human rights situation of hinterland Mindanao to the president and to the broadest Filipino people, we were met with a violent dispersal from the police,” said Jomorito Goaynon, spokesperson of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.

Goaynon said they were expecting that the president would take actions on their urgent demands, among which are the pull-out of army battalions in Mindanao, the cessation of destructive foreign agro-foreign projects, the stop of military attacks on community schools, the dismissal of trumped-up charges, and the stop of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao.

“But instead of talking to us, and instead of addressing our legitimate demands, the Aquino administration answered us with truncheons and batons,” Goaynon said.

The indigenous people went to the residence of President Aquino III to claim the answers from their demands through their Kodaw, their traditional way of communication. Last November 24, the indigenous people conducted a Kodaw in front of Malacanang to relay their demands to the Aquino government.

The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao contingent arrived here in Metro Manila last November 24 after a 14-day journey from Mindanao. Coming from the different regions of Mindanao, they came here to inform the entire country about the human rights situation in Mindanao, and to relay their demands to the Aquino administration.

Violent dispersal

Goaynon said the protesters were leaving after the program when police officers started pushing the rear of their formation with truncheons and batons.

The dispersal started when police officers hit one of the contingents with his baton.

Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao region, said that during the commotion other protesters were watching while the police pushed them with truncheons from behind while leaving.

She added that the police officers left the protesters with no choice but to resort to violence in order to defend themselves from the violence inflected on them while leaving the premises of Times-Street.

Sannyboy Gonzales, 20-year old farmer from Davao city in Southern Mindanao region, said he was the first one who took a blow from an unidentified police officer.

“I was holding the patrol car of the police as we walked towards the highway from Times-Street. But the police officer got mad at me for holding the patrol car. He hit me and I used my wrist to deflect the blow. If I evaded it the elderly person in front of me will surely take the hit,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales added he fought back to defend himself because the police officer kept on attempting to hit him with his baton.

“I was holding a bottled mineral water. I wrapped it with my jacket and tried hitting the police officer to stop him from attacking me. But, he was able to hold it and so I ran,” Gonzales said.

Other than Gonzales, seven protesters were injured due to the violent dispersal and one of them was brought to the hospital after he was hit in the neck with a baton.

‘Where shall we go?’

“I have learned that the Aquino administration will never listen to the demands of the indigenous people. We feel belittled and insulted by the Aquino administration’s response to our demands,” Goaynon said.

He added that for the indigenous people in Mindanao the violent dispersal taught them a lot.

“It has only confirmed how violent the Aquino government is in favoring the interest of the large foreign agro-industrial projects such as mining and plantations,” Goaynon said.

“Where shall we go to defend ourselves from hunger and militarization if the Aquino administration met us with a violent dispersal?”

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