‘Protesters are against Philippines being US military outpost in Asia’

A police officer tries to detain a demonstrator after a violent dispersal of various activist and Indigenous People's (IP) groups protesting against the continuing presence of U.S. troops in the Philippines in front of the U.S. Embassy in metro Manila, Philippines October 19, 2016. © Romeo Ranoco
The use of force by police against participants in an anti-US rally in Manila was totally unacceptable especially since President Duterte vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy and distance from the US, protest leader Renato Reyes told RT.

The anti-America protest took place outside the US embassy in Manila, Philippines. Activists were protesting against the presence of US troops in the country. The rally turned violent as police used tear gas to disperse the protests.

RT: You were at the demonstration. Can you tell us what did you see?

Renato Reyes: What we saw was the excessive use of force by the Philippine police. There was absolutely no justification for attacking the protesters. The incident happened as the protesters were about to wind up their program; they were about to voluntary disperse from the front of the US embassy. They were attacked by the police. Not only that they ran over some of the protesters they also used tear gas – they fired tear gas and hit a lot of people. At least 30 people were injured; 12 were brought to hospital; 29 people were arrested and eventually released from custody. We are still trying to get more information on the extent of the injuries and the arrests have been made today.

RT: This is not the first time a protest has been held against the US presence in the Philippines, which were peaceful. Why did this one turn violent, do you think?

RR: Recent protests were peaceful. They managed to end peacefully. Maybe this time around since we were very close to the US embassy, the Philippine police felt the need to use excessive force on protesters. But as I said, there is no justification for running over protesters many of whom came from the ranks of indigenous peoples.

This is totally unacceptable, especially since Philippine President [Rodrigo Duterte] himself vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy and to distance [the country] from the US. Yet, the Philippine police force seems to be reprising its role...

RT: What were you protesting about today? What is your concern?

RR: The main concern of the indigenous peoples and different national minorities that they want US troops out of their land; the wanted US companies…to stop their destructive mining operations; they wanted an end to all the unequal military agreements that we’ve been having with the US, which allowed them practically to turn the Philippines into its own military outpost here in Asia. So they are basically demanding freedom from any type of foreign intervention, so that we can chart our own path toward development.

RT: There has been some kind of shift away from US dependency in the Philippines. Is this a widespread feeling among the Filipinos?

RR: It is really mixed, the feelings here. Remember we have been an American colony and neo-colony for such a long time that there are also strong feelings in favor of the US. But right now because the President has spoken so emphatically against the foreign intervention, there is a renewed sense of nationalism, or patriotism among the Filipinos… [They fight for] independence and stand on our two feet, and engage other countries that are not allied with the US…. So this is a very interesting time here. President Duterte enjoys widespread support, and I think his foreign policy will enjoy the same widespread support if this will really be for the benefit of the Filipino people. By all means we should support it.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.