2 students arrested as protests hound first day of Balikatan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 11) — Two youth activists were arrested on Tuesday while joining one of the protests against the military drills between Filipino and American troops.

According to police, groups began staging their protests against the Balikatan exercises in front of the United States Embassy in Manila at 4:50 a.m.

Manila Police District PIO Chief PMaj. Philipp Ines said a 22-year-old student from the University of the Philippines and a 24-year-old student from Far Eastern University were apprehended for vandalism and resisting arrest.

"Kung naging maayos lang sana sila at hindi ni pinagbabato ng pintura ang US embassy hindi sana mangyayari ang pagkaka-aresto sa dalawang estudyante," Ines told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: If they behaved properly and had not thrown paint at the US embassy, the two students would not have been arrested.]

Youth groups, including the Kabataan Party-list, criticized the arrest. Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel argued that a video showed the two students did not resist arrest, and there was allegedly a use if force in how they were arrested.

"Tayo din ay naniniwala na ang kanilang actions, yung kanilang pagsali sa protesta ay hindi naman ituturing na isang krimen [We also believe that their actions, their participation in the protest are not considered a crime]," Manuel said.

The League of Filipino Students also denounced the arrest, saying their actions were peaceful.

The UP College of Mass Communication also defended one of its students, and called on authorities to immediately release the activists.

Protests against the joint drills have also reached the US, as over 60 Filipinos and members of anti-war organizations rallied in Times Square in New York City.

"Rather than protect the livelihoods and land of Filipinos, the US military aims to encircle and intimidate China and reinforce US hegemony in the Asia Pacific," said Nina Macapinlac, Secretary General of BAYAN USA.

Fishers at risk

The Philippines and the United States formally opened the largest-ever Balikatan on Tuesday, with over 17,500 troops participating.

Groups sounded the alarm on how the military exercises will affect the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk.

In a statement, GABRIELA Secretary-General Clarice Palce said there are reportedly live-fire exercises (LFX) across the country, including Nueva Ecija.

"The residents, many of whom are farmers, are afraid to leave their homes, and the LFXs have been a source of concern for people's mobility and their ability to safely seek their livelihoods," Place added.

However, Palawan 2nd District Rep. Jose Alvarez said this "inconvenience is temporary."

Asked if the Balikatan have an impact on livelihoods of fishers in Palawan communities, Alvarez said, "That is true, if there is live firing at sea. But before this live firing at sea of course there is enough warning to the fishermen and this is not done at night. This is done during the day."

"The inconvenience is temporary, if you ask me," Alvarez told CNN Philippines' The Final Word."

CNN Philippines' correspondent Paige Javier contributed to this story.