Groups march to Mendiola as Aquino fetes Francis

YOUTH activists marched alongside other people’s organizations on Friday morning to tell Pope Francis about the real state of the nation.

Members of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), Anakbayan, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, Kabataang Artista Para sa Tunay na Kalayaan and Kabataan Party-list group marched to the historic bridge while President Aquino and Pope Francis were meeting in Malacañang.

The pope paid a courtesy call on Mr. Aquino as he started the first full day of his visit to the country, which has a large Roman Catholic majority. LFS said the protest was intended to reveal to His Holiness the real face of poverty and oppression in the country, and reminded “the paranoid Aquino administration of the problems it’s trying sweep under the rug.”

Charlotte Velasco, who speaks in behalf of LFS, said “the poor suffer under a system riddled with corruption, oppression and greed perpetuated by the Aquino administration. The paranoid regime employs overkill efforts to hide this truth from the pope, so we have gathered together and braved the streets to dispel them.”

“The pork-barrel chief Aquino will surely not listen to Pope Francis’s remarks regarding the dismal Typhoon Yolanda relief. The anti-poor President will probably shun the pope’s calls for land for the tillers, decent jobs, accessible education and clean government,” she continued.

LFS maintained that the youth and the people’s struggles will not be forestalled by the regime’s overkill security for the papal visit.

Velasco added they want Pope Francis, who is known to be vocal on social issues like education, as an ally in their fight for accessible and affordable quality education.

“If Aquino thinks that our fight for education will be suspended due to the papal visit, then he’s wrong. The Filipino people has found an ally in Pope Francis and we want him to join us in our crusade for better social services, respect for human rights and justice for all,” she continued.

LFS also denounced President Aquino’s apparent hypocrisy as he received the pope and denounced the National Police for its violent dispersal of peasants belonging to Kasama-Southern Tagalog, who marched from Baclaran to greet the pope.

“Once apprised of the Aquino administration’s negligence in helping the disaster victims and its policy of putting more financial burdens on the people through higher train fares, increased water rates and the impending hikes in power rates, Pope Francis would certainly sport a grim frown in his meeting with Aquino,” Velasco stressed.

“Pope Francis should notice how Aquino ordered the putting up of metal fences, concrete barriers and the deployment of up to 50,000 policemen and soldiers to discourage the urban poor from seeing Pope Francis. He would then figure out that they’re not there for his protection and that there is indeed a great divide between the regime and the poor in the country,” she argued.

LFS urged the youth and other sectors of society to welcome the Pope’s visit not only in faith but also in action. 

“We hope that Pope Francis’s statements will inspire more Filipinos to combat the corrupt and oppressive Aquino administration and join the progressive movement for genuine social change,” Velasco added.

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