A militant group caused disarray while Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III was answering questions at the World Leaders Forum inside the Low Memorial Library of Columbus University, New York City last Tuesday, September 23, 2014.
The President remained calm and did not utter a word against the militants after the group shouted and created commotion inside the peaceful hall of the university.
The militant group Gabriela and Anak Bayan were protesting about justice not being served in the country. They were pertaining to the Ampatuan Massacre and other bloodsheds that happened before President Aquino’s term. They were also ranting about the millions of dollars of donations for the Typhoon Haiyan victims that, according to them, were not distributed to the people.
After President Aquino concluded his speech, Mr. Lee C. Bollinger, the University President and host of the event said that he knows that the President practices democracy in his country, but the disruption of these people are not acceptable according to the rules and regulations of Columbia University. Mr. Bollinger had the militants escorted out of the hall, resulted in one arrest by the New York Police Department.
The President was invited to speak at the World Leaders Forum with the theme: The Peace and Progress in the Asian Region, The Philippines Perspective at the Columbia University. This is a year-long event of the university where they invite world leaders aiming to advance lively, uninhibited dialogue on the large economic, political, and social questions of our time.
The Forum’s list of previous participants includes many heads of the state and few of the many remarkable past speakers includes Presidents Bill Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, and the Dalai Lama. Among the audience were students and professors of Political Science and they were encouraged to ask questions about various issues in the respective countries of the speakers.
It is an honor to the Philippines that President Aquino was invited to speak in a prestigious event of one of the best universities in America. Unfortunately, these militants sneaked their way inside the forum, causing trouble and shame among the listeners and fellow countrymen.
We may not have the best President, but what these militants did was indeed shameful and out of hand. They have the right to protest, but they have no right to crash and cause trouble inside a private university carrying the name of the Filipino people. I even doubt if they are citizens of the Philippines.