Manila cops detain 2 youth activists after US Embassy rally

Manila cops detain 2 youth activists after US Embassy rally
In this December 2021 file photo, a patrol car of the Manila Police District is parked at the Manila Bay Dolomite Beach.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — Manila police on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of two youth activists after an unannounced protest in front of the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard.

The protest coincides with the scheduled opening ceremonies of the joint Balikatan exercises, annual war games that this year have been billed the biggest because of the number of troops participating.

According to a spot report by the Ermita Police Station, the two youths — in their early twenties and both from cities in Metro Manila — were part of a group that "suddenly appeared in front of [the embassy] and intentionally threw paint" at the sign and logo of the US State Department.

Police said personnel chased after members of the group, who had run away after the quick protest, and managed to arrest the two.

The police did not say that the two actually threw the paint, but said neither of them could show permits for the protest. Under a decree issued by Ferdinand Marcos Sr., activities like protests in public places require permits unless done in designated freedom parks.

According to UP Diliman campus publication Kalasag, among those arrested was Gabriel Magtibay, chair of campus political party STAND UP. In statements of support for Magtibay, student activist organizations said four to five others had been arrested.

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National democratic activist groups oppose the Visiting Forces Agreement and other military agreements with the US as well as US troop presence in general, saying these keep the Philippines dependent on its treaty ally and former colonizer, and put the country at risk of being dragged into geopolitical conflict with China.

The government, and supporters of US engagement, see the bigger Balikatan games and the warmer ties with America as a way to shore up national defense in the face of Chinese encroachment and provide jobs to local communities.  

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