Protesters held for holding lightning rally at Palace gates on Valentine’s Day | Inquirer News

Protesters held for holding lightning rally at Palace gates on Valentine’s Day

/ 03:12 PM February 14, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Close to 30 farmers seeking land reform marched to the gates of Malacanang Tuesday morning, hoping that Valentine’s Day would soften President Aquino’s heart, but ended up getting cruel love instead.

The members of Task Force Mapalad, who staged a lightning rally at the Palace’s Gate 3 bearing heart-shaped red posters, were allegedly manhandled by Presidential Security Group personnel before they were arrested for alleged illegal assembly, traffic obstruction, and violating a city ordinance prohibiting shirtless men on the streets.

With their heart-shaped placards almost ripped to shreds, 28 persons, including seven women, filled the Manila Police District General Assignment Section office at the city’s police force headquarters on UN Avenue in Ermita.


Most of the arrested protesters, who came from the provinces of Negros Occidental, Agusan del Sur, Davao, Bukidnon, and Batangas, looked stunned and overwhelmed by their arrest, saying that it was the first time in their ten years of clamoring for genuine land reform that they were hauled off to a police station and booked.


“Maybe we should have shouted Grace Lee,” one of them remarked with a wry smile, referring to the Korean radio program host that the President has acknowledge he has been dating.

The members of Task Force Mapalad boarded  jeepneys plying the Quiapo-Arlegui route at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday which enabled them to slip past the Don Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) bridge peace arch and walked to the Gate 3 of the Malacañang .

Once all of the 28 members had gathered near the gate, at least 15 of the men removed their shirts to show off painted messages on their bodies: “Complete Carper” and “Land and Justice.” The others whipped out heart-shaped posters, some of which read: “Fighting corruption good but don’t forget poverty alleviation-TFM” and “Where is your heart for agrarian reform P-Noy?”

The display stirred the PSG men, who were caught by surprise, into action. They started rounding up the protesters, who claimed to have been hit by members of the PSG during the process, and turned them over to the custody of the responding MPD Station 8 operatives.

The farmers were then hauled off to the MPD headquarters. Some of them showed bruises and abrasions to an Inquirer reporter, claiming their injuries were inflicted by the PSG men. The oldest among those arrested was Loreta Vargas, 63,  of Negros Occidental.

TFM Negros president Alberto Jayme, who was among those arrested, told the Inquirer, “We really timed our protest action with Valentine’s Day thinking that the President’s heart might soften toward our clamor for land reform and listen.”


“We only wanted him to hear our plea for the completion of the land reform program under Carper because it seems it has already been forgotten,” he said, referring to the attention the Aquino government appears to be giving the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

He pointed out that while they welcomed the President’s campaign against corruption, they asked him to demonstrate the same fervor in completing land distribution promised by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper). He and members of his group likewise wished President Aquino well in his search for a lifetime partner but said they also wish he would give them land.

“We have been denied our right to land and we trust in the President that he would abide by the law and push the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) to make good on its pledge to complete the distribution of more than 1.03 million hectares to landless peasants until 2014,” he said.

Marietta Claridad, 42, of Negros Occidental, told the Inquirer that she started joining the protest actions when she was still single. “Now that I am married and have six children, I still have not tasted land distribution.”

“We know our rights. We are not asking more than the land we deserve,” she added.

The MPD closed down all of the main gates  at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, as soon as the protesters were booked. One of the gurds told the Inquirer that they were anticipating activists to troop to the police station.

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The protesting farmers are set to be charged at the city prosecutor’s office with  illegal assembly; unlawful obstruction of pedestrians and traffic, and the local half-naked law.

TAGS: Farmers, Land Reform, News, Police, protest

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