Watch this video primer “Land & Justice: Hacienda Luisita” (with English subtitles)
New York– Around 35 protesters hounded Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during the latter’s speaking engagement at Columbia University. Aquino was visibly caught off guard as young Filipino-Americans with Anakbayan New Jersey, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), and Gabriela New York challenged him from the audience during a forum held inside Columbia’s Low Memorial Library with questions on the pork barrel scandal, Typhoon Haiyan, and human rights abuses treated with impunity.
At the same time, a rally was conducted outside in the main courtyard of the university with BAYAN USA, a Filipino-American social justice alliance, raised the issue of the dominance of US interests over Philippine economic and political spheres “stunting Philippine economic growth and deepening poverty in the country.”
Slashing Disaster Relief Funds vs. Pork Barrel System
At the forum, the questions and comments were raised on lack of adequate relief for Typhoon Haiyan victims, and some not receiving any relief at all, after 10 months.
A banner reading “Oust Aquino, Pork Barrel King” was unfurled by the stage in front of the audience.
Human Rights Abuses, Impunity, Hacienda Luisita
The young activists inside the library also raised the issue of human rights abuses with a banner reading “End Impunity. Stop the Killings”.
“I have been to Hacienda Luisita. I have seen first hand the continuing plight of the farmworkers, the families of the laborers of those who were massacred for wanting to earn more than 9 pesos a day. It’s unbelievable to me that this can happen on the piece of property owned by the President’s family,” stated Joelle Lingat of Anakbayan New Jersey, who was escorted out by New York City police after she got up and challenged Aquino on his human rights track record.
Protesters continued to rally outside until the forum was over and Aquino left the campus.
More news from Manila Today here
Watch the video from Rappler.com
Watch the Eskinita episode featuring Filipino-American activists’ recent exposure trip to Hacienda Luisita here