ANTI-GLORIA RALLYISTS BLAMED FOR VIOLENCE

Manila, Jan. 22, 2003 (Tribune) - Demonstrators demanding the ouster of President Arroyo from office, who were injured in a violent dispersal by policemen during the commemoration of Edsa II last Monday, were blamed Malacaņang for the violence. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said from the very start, the militant groups never backed President Arroyo so they were not alarmed over their threat of withdrawing their support from the administration.

"Right from the start, there's no support from them so there is nothing new about this threat," Bunye said.

Militant group leaders lambasted the authorities for not allowing them to hold a rally at the Edsa Shrine inspite of the fact that they were the ones who first trooped to the historic place two years ago to install President Arroyo to the presidency.

But Bunye blamed the demonstrators for the violent dispersal since they allegedly disobeyed an existing agreement with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and forced themselves into the vicinity of the Edsa Shrine despite the alleged appeal of the police authorities for them to first secure the necessary permit to rally.

"There was an agreement that they will be allowed to stage any protest provided they have the permit and they will wait for the other groups to finish activities at the Edsa Shrine vicinity but they forced themselves to the area. They disobeyed the agreement," the Palace official said.

Malacaņang said it would wait for the investigation result of the PNP on the incident.

"There will be the usual investigation. We leave that to the PNP to conduct the investigation and look into the cause, and then we will just wait for the report," Bunye averred.

Malacaņang, however, stressed it was not suppressing the militant groups' right to exercise "freedom of speech and assembly" but appealed to them to properly observe the laws at all times.

The rallyists, estimated to be numbering between 3,000 and 5,000, were violently dispersed on Monday by anti-riot policemen using truncheons and water cannons at the Edsa Shrine located at the border of Mandaluyong City and Quezon City, where President Arroyo attended a midday Mass commemorating the second anniversary of her rise to power.

Around 12 noon, the protesters, coming from various left-leaning organizations, were stopped by the policemen in front of Camp Crame where the first police blocking force was stationed.

The rallyists, led by Bayan Muna party-list representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, tried to march to the shrine but the policemen led by Supt. Rosendo Franco stopped them at the Santolan Station of the Metro Rail Transit system.

Also composed of members of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other militant groups, the demonstrators had converged in Cubao, Quezon City, as early as 6 a.m. before marching toward the Edsa Shrine.

Standing between them and the police were about 3,000 to 5,000 government supporters, according to Gen. Rolando Sacramento, director of the Eastern Police District.

The Edsa Shrine had been declared by the local Roman Catholic Church off-limits to political demonstrations but it was not immediately established why the Mandaluyong City police and other local authorities allowed Mrs. Arroyo and her camp to use the area obviously for partisan political activities.


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