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Arroyo’s post-Obama trip to NYC riddled with protest

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Contact: Hanalei Ramos and Yves Nibungco
Regional Co-Coordinators, BAYAN-USA

NEW YORK–The day after her meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington DC, Philippine Head of State Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was once again met with more protests in New York City last Friday in front of her hotel, the Waldorf Astoria. Arroyo traveled for a brief stay in New York City to meet with US businessmen this weekend.

Numerous Anti-Arroyo protesters from BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerent (FiRE), Anakbayan NY/NJ, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), stood and chanted in the pouring rain to register opposition against the Arroyo administration’s plans to convene a constituent assembly (Con-Ass) that would revise the 1987 Philippine Constitution according to her administration’s proposed changes, also known as Charter Change (Cha-Cha). Protesters also held up signs and banners demanding justice for Melissa Roxas, a member of BAYAN USA abducted and tortured by what is widely-believed to be the Philippine military last May.

“These meetings with businessmen are literally to sell-off our homeland piece-by-piece, as Cha-Cha will ensure the selling of Philippine national patrimony as well as mass media and public utilities,” stated Berna Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN USA. “We may be only 20 standing here in front of the Waldorf, but we represent the interest of millions of Filipinos for a truly sovereign nation to call their own.”

Protesters were able to march to the entrance of the hotel while Arroyo was inside, causing other hotel clients to take notice. Chanting “Cha-Cha ni Gloria, Ibasura!” (Junk Gloria’s Cha-Cha!) and “Gloria, Gloria, You Can’t Hide, We Charge You with Homicide!”, protesters stopped, temporarily blocking the hotel’s entrance, to point out Arroyo’s scrutinized human rights record and the case of Melissa Roxas with hotel clients standing by the entrance waiting to hail a taxi.

They also pointed out the usage of US tax dollars through military aid to fund the Philippine military which has been proven by international human rights monitoring groups to be committing these human rights violations.

The Waldorf-Astoria protest follows a high-profile meeting between Arroyo and Obama at the White House last week.

Several members of protesters in New York City also participated in protests the day before in front of the White House, seeking to call Obama’s attention to Årroyo’s human rights track record and to raise it during the meeting. But a post-meeting press conference revealed that the issue was not discussed, in favor of discussion of economic partnership.

Instead, the Obama administration publicly affirmed ties to the Arroyo administration by appointing the Philippines as the coordinator of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a multi-lateral economic forum of nations from South East Asia that meets to discuss economic development and cultural progress.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised,” Ellorin stated. “The Obama and Arroyo governments are determined to maintain the status quo of a master-servant relationship through unequal ties, despite opposition from the American and Filipino people. This only proves that NO PRESIDENT can bring in ‘change we can believe in’. Real change can only be brought by people like us united in mass movement and solidarity.”