By Mico Cortez
More than 100 people, including a Catholic priest, were injured when police and protesters clashed in Manila yesterday after President Benigno Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address.
Around 5,000 people, including priests, seminarians, and Protestant pastors, took part in the demonstration to protest against Aquino’s alleged failure to help the poor.
Violence flared when the protesters were barred from marching on the Batasang Pambansa, the headquarters of the House of Representatives.
Activists claimed that at least 95 protesters were hurt, eight of them, including a priest, were rushed to a hospital with head injuries.
At least five policemen and four journalists were also hurt.
The prophetic task of Church people is to expose the truth,” said Nardy Sabino, secretary-general of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, an ecumenical organization of bishops, lay people and religious.
The group was at the forefront of yesterday’s protest during which effigies of Aquino were burned.
They accused Aquino of committing the “Seven Deadly Sins,” referring to the government’s development goals that include mining and a population control scheme that is being opposed by Catholic bishops.
Sabino said the group’s aim is to be “in solidarity with the poor in their struggle.”
Rommel Linatoc of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a conciliar body of mainline Protestant Churches, said the reason they joined the protest was because “nothing has changed” under Aquino.
“They are even killing Church workers,” he said, referring to the recent murder of Dutch missionary Willem Geertman in Pampanga province.
Jophet Domingo of the Christian Youth Organization of the Philippines said the protest was an opportunity for people of different faiths to come together.
“I am here to listen to the people in this ‘people’s tribunal,” said Adam Dalac, a Franciscan brother who said he wanted to live the “theology of experience” with people in the streets.
Reverend Eric Milambiling, a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, had a similar desire.
“It’s better to listen to the masses who say what they really feel,” he said.
Before Aquino delivered his annual report to the nation yesterday, the country’s Catholic bishops expressed hope he would tell the country the “truth.”
The Commission on Human Rights today said it will launch an investigation into the violence.