Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Continuing updates: Caravan for Truth and Reforms

Today citizen-pilgrims from all throughout the country, who have been engaged in the Caravan for Truth and Reforms for days now, are meant to converge at the Edsa People Power Monument to deliver their united and committed voice for change. The government, however, seems to have other intentions. No to Con Ass, Yes to Con-Con, Oust GMA!

Please keep checking this entry for continuous updates on the situation as marchers from all over the country converge on the national capital from the north and the south.

9:47 am
Marchers from the North are already being blocked by government forces led Col. Soria and Col. Retirado. The march is being turned back to La Limos, Tarlac.

10:26 am Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and others are attempting to reach the marchers in the North. However, there is heightened concern because the police/military "blocking force" are armed with Armalites and dressed in full battle gear.

10:38 am Rep. Baraquel gives details on ANC: protesters being blocked. Just as she was able to convince Col. Soria to let the Pilgrims through, Col. Retirado appeared and insisted on bringing the protesters back to Banban, Tarlac -with the possible intention of pushing them back all the way to La Union Province. The Pilgrims are being detained in the Banban police station. Rep. Baraquel reiterates that over the past few weeks the activities have of the Pilgrims has been orderly and peaceful and does not justify the massive forces and firepower deployed to impede the march. She also points out that officials have been unable to provide compelling reasons to justify their decision to forbid the continuation of the pilgrimage. The detainees are waiting for Rep. Noynoy Aquino to arrive in Banban.

10:59 am Text message from Caravan participant in Bamban, Tarlac: Naka full battle gear bantay namin, mga 20 sila. May mobile sa harap at sa likod. Mga Armalite ang dala. ("The ones tasked with guarding us are in full battle gear, there are about 20 of them. They have mobiles in front and the rear. They are bearing Armalite rifles").

11:07 am Pilgrim Caravaneers from the South have gotten through! They are currently on the South Luzon Expressway, passing Santa Rosa, Laguna. They are proudly bearing the flags of their various organizations.

11:10 am the Contingent in the South consists of about 200 individuals in 10 jeeps. Among them are the core Pilgrim Caravaneers from Mindanao, the Visayas, and Bicol.

11:27 am Pilgrim Caravaneers are approaching the South Luzon Expressway toll gates, on their way to their EDSA rendezvous with Metro Manila participants gathered near GMA7.

11:42 am Update on the North: Rep. Noynoy Aquino is negotiating with the military escort. Marchers are being brought to San Manuel, Tarlac.

11:59 am Caravan photo! Sent via MMS from the field: South SuperHighway, toll gate area.

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12:02 pm North update: Marchers have reached police station of San Manuel. Rep. Aquino "on top of the situation."

12:38 pm Group from the South has converged with Metro Manila marchers on Edsa. In about half an hour, they will begin marching to the People Power Monument. No police so far.

1:37 pm Caravan in Quezon City photos

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1:59 pm Here's an report on what happened in the North.

2:06 pm New photo from Quezon City

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2:42 pm traffic enforces augmented as groups aim to converge at the People Power Monument.

2:48 pm The ranks of those participating is conservatively estimated at 12,000 people. They are proceeding along Edsa toward the People Power Monument. Latest phoned-in on-the-scene report says  2 phalanxes of policemen are at the Cubao underpass, awaiting the caravan.

2:55 pm Negotiations imminent. Police have erected barricades at the foot of the Boni Serrano Bridge in the vicinity of Camp Crame. Leaders are moving forward to dialogue with the police.

3:00 pm ANC showing live video of marchers along Edsa, occupying one lane beneath the MRT.

3:10 pm Latest photos:

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Negotiations with Police (that's Sr. Supt. Balba of the PNP):
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3:25 pm Sheila Dionisio of ABS-CBN says the crowd estimate is "nearly 20,000" but the caravan is stuck along Edsa-Santolan as the police refuse to let them go further; dispersal has been mentioned. Negotiations continue. People in the Caravan are handing bunches of yellow flowers to the first and second rows of policemen. The atmosphere remains calm.

3:43 pm Shiela Dionisio updates again. Permission from Gen. Lomibao still being awaited. Barriers were tipped over by Pilgrim-Caravaneers but control was reasserted quickly; the police retreated a bit; much waving of banners and chanting. A fire engine is reported as being on standby "just in case."

Maricar Bautista adds more details about the tipping over of the portable metal barriers; the police have relented: the Caravan can proceed to the People Power Monument, but cannot pass directly on Edsa; they have to travel down a sidestreet. The permission was apparently made possible by People Power Commissioner Pastor "Boy" Saycon calling up Gen. Lomibao. The Pilgrim-Caravaneers are now preparing to resume their journey.

3:52 pm Pia Hontiveros reports from the People Power Monument and says the Anak Mindanao delegation was stuck along White Plains Road but finally let through after 30 minutes of delay (on the pretext they had no rally permit; but Hontiveros says says there's a permit; the police countered that only those already there have a permit, but if you want to join a rally and don't have a permit, then you can't attend!).

3:57 pm The situation on the ground is not "chaos" as Karen Bayhon was saying on ANC.

4:04 pm Ricky Carandang clarifies that the Caravan is a Black & White and Akbayan and associated groups activity. He is in front of Camp Crame, reports the crowd as "large", peaceful, and well-behaved. From Cubao to Santolan cars are not moving on Edsa; thereafter, traffic is moving. Carandang says the people are moving smoothly and represents "an interesting mix". He reports some motorists are rolling down their windows and waving at the marchers, and some honking their horns, others ignoring the events.

4:10 pm Gen. Querol on the line on ANC appeals to Caravan to "stick to the side" because of traffic although he doesn't mention why the police have failed to make traffic control provisions except now, in an ad-hoc manner. He says the crowd estimate is at 3 to 4,000 (in contrast to media reports).

4:35 pm Meanwhile, as thousands march to remember People Power, we see this:

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4:46 pm updates its report on the Caravan.

5:10 pm More photos! These were actually sent over an hour ago, but clogged networks meant we could only download them now:

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The caravan resumes! Dinky Soliman, Wilson Fortaleza, Rep. Baraquel, Roland Llamas link arms

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Determined Pilgrim-Caravaneers

Gen. Quirol is reported on the news as having said the Caravan has to leave the People Power Monument by 6 pm or face dispersal.

On ANC Ricky Carandang reports the Caravan from Edsa reached the People Power monument about ten minutes ago. The program is ongoing. Police estimates of the crowd, initially at 3 to 4 thousand, have inched upwards to 5 thousand; Dinky Soliman says 20,000 are there. Carandang says a certain Elmo de Leon from the police, in charge of crowd control, says they did not receive instructions to disperse the Caravan at 6 pm.

5:33 pm Dinky Soliman on ANC via cellphone hookup, explaining how the Caravan began its journey on February 1, and why it's wound its way to Metro Manila. Abruptly cut off because of the noise (lots of music!)

6:33 pm Thank you to all those who attended or who were with us in spirit! Here's Agence France Presse's report.

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