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Palace official gets heckled at rally
In The Press Posted on November 30th, 2009.
PRESS Secretary Cerge Remonde was “attacked” with paper balls and harsh words on Monday when he attended an indignation rally on the Maguindanao massacre in Mendiola to personally convey Malacañang’s solidarity with various groups seeking justice for the 57 victims.
The original plan was for Remonde to meet with National Press Club (NPC) president Benny Antiporda and Confederation of Asean Journalists secretary-general Veerasamy Anbalagan in Malacañang after the rally, but against the advice of Antiporda, Remonde insisted on attending the rally.
Remonde said he was “graciously” received by Party-list Reps. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela at the side of the makeshift stage, but then he decided to go up the stage to deliver a short
message, which was not in the official program.
Remonde was booed as he made his way to the stage. Some members of militant groups shouted, “Remonde, baba ka diyan [go down]!” and “Pasista, berdugo, tuta [Fascist, killer, puppet]!” while pelting him with paper balls and crumpled plastic bags, a couple of which hit the Palace official.
Efforts to quell the heckling failed, prompting Remonde to say despite the noise: “I join all of you in condemning the killings in Mindanao. We are one with you.”
Some ralliers rushed to get to Remonde and tried to hit him as he walked out of the rally area, but their blows mostly landed on cameramen and journalists who were beside the Palace official.
In an interview inside the barricaded portion of Mendiola a few meters from the rally, Remonde told reporters that he thought the ralliers wanted Malacañang to hear their demands regarding the Maguindanao massacre, where 30 journalists were killed, so he thought it best to personally attend the rally.
“As a Palace official, I went down to meet them and receive their demands. It was an earnest move on my part...It is a very sincere desire to convey to them that President Arroyo and the government is one with them in condemning this barbaric act that happened in Maguindanao,” Remonde said.
He said that as a journalist for 30 years until his appointment in the Office of the Press Secretary, “I sincerely feel as strongly as anyone about this issue and I thought that after all, we can unite when it comes to universal issues, such as the killing of journalists, but it would seem really that rules of civility are no longer present among some people.”
“People want to rally on Mendiola because they want to be heard. Now this is one of the few occasions that a very senior Palace official comes down to meet them. Some of these people don’t want dialogue, but be that is it may, that is okay. What is important is that Malacañang conveyed its sentiments and actions on this issue,” he said.
Remonde later met with Antiporda and Anbalagan, who delivered a letter to Remonde from CAJ president Norila Daud.
The CAJ appealed to Mrs. Arroyo “to spare no effort in giving justice to the victims and to use the full force of the Philippine judicial system and your national security forces in ensuring that all the suspects are immediately apprehended whoever they may be.”
Anbalagan said in a news briefing after a meeting with Remonde that the CAJ is not there “to pressure the government,” but to convey his message that Philippine authorities should be given “time” to fully investigate the case.
“We should not rush because they’re in the stage of gathering the evidence. I think we should give them time and then we will follow up from then on,” Anbalagan said.
Remonde said the government’s determination in seeing through the case is manifested in the arrest of the “main culprit,” Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.
In a radio interview, Mrs. Arroyo said that “what happened in Mindanao, aside from violation of human rights, also sent a chill down the spine of journalism” and that she will be attending the wake of some victims “as a modest expression of the nation’s outrage and my personal shock.”
“If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, I hope it is to dedicate our nation to freedom of the press, freedom of political expression and freedom from political violence,” she said.
Antiporda warned that the journalists would not stop until justice is served to all the victims.
Some 5,000 protesters trooped to Chino Roces Avenue (formerly Mendiola) in what they tagged as “March against impunity, march for justice.”
The march-rally was led by the NPC, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Confederation of Asean Journalists, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Photojournalism, Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamamahayag and other media groups.
The militant groups who joined the protest rally were Bayan Muna, League of Filipino Students, Gabriela, Salinlahi, Alliance for Children’s Concern, Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, Katribu and other groups, including several Muslim organizations.
The protest march started on España Boulevard at 9 a.m. Majority of the journalists who joined the rally converged at the NPC building in Intramuros, Manila.
The ralliers converged on Morayta Street as they marched toward Chino Roces. (With M. Lazaro)