PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — About 60 rallyists set foot on Chino Roces bridge yesterday putting Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim on the spot with his directive allowing demonstrations within full view of Malacañang Palace.
Supporters of former President Joseph Estrada staged a morning picket on the former Mendiola bridge to press for the deposed leader’s freedom amid the impending Sandiganbayan decision on his plunder case.
Leading the estimated 60 protesters were former Vice President Teofisto Guingona and former Transportation Secretary Linggoy Alcuaz.
Rez Cortez, supporter of the late presidential aspirant Fernando Poe Jr. also showed up with the group, claiming a bigger mass action was set for Friday the 13th.
Meanwhile, San Juan City Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito said he has rejected pleas of his father’s supporters to lead them in street protests over the anti-graft court’s anticipated verdict.
“I do not know. I cannot tell how the people will react… I cannot say if magkakagulo,” he said, describing as spontaneuous the mass action in 2001 when the military and defense hierarchy triggered his father’s ousting.
Cortez said Edsa-4 could augur civil unrest in case of an adversary court ruling on Estrada.
“We are planning… a series of rallies with the theme ‘Palayain si Erap.’”
Not a few violent clashes have bloodied Mendiola bridge, which first became a choice protest site during Martial Law under the presidency of the late Ferdinand Marcos.
At least 17 protesters were killed on Jan. 22, 1987 when shooting erupted while the marchers led by Jaime Tadeo, of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, sought to cross the bridge.
“Dadanak and dugo sa Mendiola,” Tadeo was quoted to have said before the demonstrators pushed to breech the anti-riot barricade manned by Manila policemen and military units.
Lim, then chief of the Western Police District, was ordered probed by erstwhile Armed Forces Chief Fidel Ramos, alongside deputy chief Edgar Dula Torres and other military officials in the Cory Aquino administration.
Two years ago, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, also Press Secretary, urged caution in allowing marchers to cross the bridge which was barely 300 meters away from the Palace gates.
He asked the police to continue to “act in accordance with standard operating procedures to protect public interest.”
Bunye said “provocateurs or plain emotional protesters” could be tempted to call for an assault of the sentries.
“There is only one rule for all Filipinos. You break the law, you are taken to account for it,” said Bunye.
“This rule applies to the rich and the poor, the powerless and the powerful—it has nothing to do with politics.”