Lightning rally strikes consulate buildingIt was a sweltering April 16 afternoon. The drab grays of winter have been cast aside, replaced by bright colored shirts and flip-flops. The lazy, almost somnambulant mood at the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue was shattered by an angry outburst of left-wing protesters denouncing President Benigno Aquino as an agent of American imperialism.
“We denounce all foreign intervention in our country, whether China or the U.S.,” said the protesters staging a lightning rally within the lobby of the Philippine Center.
Yves Nibungco of the youth group Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, read from a tablet warning that foreign intervention “puts our country in unnecessary danger of being caught in the crossfire between China and the U.S” and that “military exercises are a provocation for war.” They urged the “junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement.”
As he read, fellow protesters echoed his statements – like a ‘people’s mic’ — as they walked in a circle around the lobby. Here is the video taken by the rallyists belonging to organizations like BAYAN USA, the International League of Peoples Struggle, and Anakbayan.
There were seven protesters, according to consular officials who were blindsided but appeared unperturbed. Deputy Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega told The FilAm they entered the building “in the guise of applying for consular services.” They joined about nine people – non protesters — who were being assisted by consular staff.
“Upon one of the protestor’s signal, they started chanting protest slogans for about four-five minutes against the Philippines-US Balikatan Exercises before leaving the Philippine Center,” said de Vega, who is also the manager of the Philippine Center. “They were politely told by the Security (staff) that they should hold the protest action outside of the building as the lobby is primarily an exhibition space and waiting area for clients and visitors to the Center.”
De Vega said the consulate recognizes the right of any person to “freely voice” his political views but it should be done in a manner that is “not disruptive” to the regular operations of the Philippine Government. “The lobby of the Philippine Center functions both as a waiting area for consular applicants and other visitors and also as an art exhibition center.”
She said security officers will “exercise more caution” in allowing visitors inside the building.
“The protestors could always meet with consulate representatives to discuss their views which we always relay to concerned officials in Manila,” she said.