Progressive Filipinos and their Belgian solidarity friends picketed President BS Aquino as he delivered a speech at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, Belgium yesterday 16 September.
The protest picket was spearheaded by Migrante Europe and joined by members of the Ugnayang Pilipino sa Belgium, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and the Belgian solidarity organization INTAL. The protesters carried placards that stated: BS Aquino human rights violator, Aquino king of thieves, Keep off disaster funds, Justice for Willem Geertman and Fr. Pops Tentorio, and No to EDCA!
They also distributed the statement “Enough of BS Aquino, Corrupt and Brutal Ruler! Never again to another Marcos dictatorship”, which was signed jointly by several European human rights, solidarity and Filipino organizations across Europe.
Queried by the media covering the event, Rev. Cesar Taguba of Migrante Europe asserted: “We are here to raise concerns over the corruption, human rights abuses and tyranny of Aquino.” He said Aquino is misinforming the EU about the real situation in the Philippines and that the protest is one way of exposing this.
According to Reverend Taguba, BS Aquino obviously took the backdoor to enter the venue to avoid the protesters. The meeting, he said, was supposed to start at 6:30 pm, but Aquino’s entourage delayed their arrival at the venue at around 6:50 pm.
The protesters shouted such slogans as “Noynoy, shame on you!” BS Aquino, Taguba stressed, could not hide his regime’s corruption, human rights violations, puppetry to the US and trying to follow Marcos with his term extension scheme, during this Europe visit.
Inside the Egmont Institute, one of the members of INTAL Brussels Philippine Group who listened to BS Aquino’s speech, questioned Aquino on his human rights record, during the question and answer that followed.
“I am delighted to hear that the protection of human rights is part of your government program. Because the numbers are not good: 204 activists murdered, 208 others in prison, 21 cases of enforced disappearances … all since the beginning of your presidency,” Johan of INTAL said.
Another INTAL participant in the Egmont meeting, Fanny Polet, writing on her blog afterwards said: “He (Aquino) also answered to another question about the economic partnership agreement, ensuring us of his will to accelerate it. This is not really something we are looking forward to, when we see the social damages such a policy would give rise to…..” She said critical leaflets for distribution titled “Time for President Aquino to tackle the Philippines’ dirty, open secret” and “Stop torture”, made their way on the registration table at the Institute.
A team of Belgian policemen tried to disperse the picket, but the protesters stood their ground and asserted their right to express their views over serious developments in the Philippines.
Major Filipino news channels (GMA News, TV5, ABS-CBN) covered the protest. However, two Filipino media persons were harassed and almost prevented from entering the Egmont Institute by Aquino’s security personnel after they were allegedly observed “sympathizing” with the protesters.
photos by Jonjon Bustamante