Saturday, March 24, 2012

We shall remain

Nothing else could’ve painted a better picture of a modern day battle between David and Goliath: On the one hand are a handful of protesters, a group of less than a hundred composed mostly of young men and women barely out of their teens, armed only with their convictions written on flimsy recycled cardboards . On the other hand, a phalanx of shielded and armed policemen and private security guards, preventing the protesters from marching on to Luneta Road, a public road that SM City Baguio treats like its own private driveway.

“The permit was revoked,” this was what the protesters were told. It cannot be independently confirmed if it was indeed the Baguio Police Office Chief or the Mayor’s Office which revoked the permit, but that was the justification given by the guardians of SM City Baguio’s interests in preventing the protesters from entering Luneta Road.

In one conversation with PSupt. James Allan Logan, Chief of the Traffic Management Division, he tried to clarify that they were not barricading Luneta Road to protect SM City Baguio, but to prevent a violent confrontation between the mall and the protesters. We had to remind him that, instead of having line of policemen facing the protesters, perhaps it would make more sense to have them facing the other way – we are simply trying to save the lives of 182 trees, SM City Baguio is the one threatening to kill them. If there’s any real threat of violence, it’s plain to see where it could come from.

We have always conducted our public demonstrations peacefully from day one. The phenomenal January 20, 2012 rally, the biggest the city has ever seen in recent history, had the protesters peacefully marching down Session Road to People’s Park, before proceeding to the rotunda at the top of Session Road simply to play gongs, sing songs and apologize to motorists for the inconvenience (while at the same time begging them to honk their horns as a show of support).

We also had what we called a Jericho Walk, a communal Valentine’s date attended by children and their parents, teachers, students, nuns, artists and other candle-bearing like-hearted souls peacefully walking around Luneta Hill and keeping to the sidewalk to avoid inconveniencing motorists. A confrontation only occurred when SM City Baguio’s security guards barricaded the sidewalk leading up to Luneta Road, forcing the group to walk along the road instead.

When we applied for another rally permit for March 10, 2012, both BCPO Chief David Lacdan and City Administrator signed it without ado. But Mr. Logan signed it with a recommendation that we do not pass Luneta Road. We asked him why, and we were told that the traffic division is just concerned about the traffic jam the rally might cause. Only when we stood our ground that Luneta Road is a public road that he relented. That rally, as in the previous ones, went on peacefully.

But on March 23, even with the permit that all three signatories signed, the protesters were prevented from entering Luneta Road. Up on Luneta Hill, SM City Baguio has set up a stage for some event complete the fancy dancing lights and ear-blasting music (“who let the dogs out,” played on the speakers, a pat on the back of SM City Baguio’s spinmeisters). The reason, the group was told, for the revocation was because the group “overstayed” the last time we were allowed to march along Luneta Road. The torch and placard bearing few were surrounded by policemen, intimidating in their uniforms and gear. The group peacefully left and gathered at the mini park fronting the post office.

Our city officials must understand that nobody in the movement now known as Save 182 is in this for any direct personal gain. We are here because we love our city. We are here because we know that we inherited a beautiful city from those who came before us, and we only want to do all we can to be able to pass on a beautiful Baguio to the next generation. We will not be threatened, we will not be intimidated. Mr. Henry Sy and his family can live without this expansion project, the same cannot be said of Baguio without the trees.

On March 31, 2012, from 4:00pm onwards, Save 182 joins the Cordillera Global Network at the corner of Mabini Street and Session Road in its observance of Earth Hour.

In the struggle to fight for the welfare of the greater majority against corporate greed, in our journey towards a better city, in our efforts to preserve the dignity and beauty of the City of Pines, we, of the Save 182 movement, shall remain.

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