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Activists disrupt PNoy talk at Columbia University

(Updated 8:38 a.m.) NEW YORK - At least three activists on Tuesday disrupted an event at Columbia University in New York for President Benigno Aquino III.

The activists, who were among the audience at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum, said Aquino needs to explain the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, where the funds for Yolanda victims went, and the presence of US troops there.

All of them, before they were escorted outside, shouted "No justice, no peace. Stop the killings in the Philippines."
The President, however, did not respond and just continued answering questions during the open forum.

Columbia University president Lee Bollinger apologized to Aquino and said that although they value freedom of speech in the US, it wasn’t right to interrupt an academic forum that way.
Columbia University staff could not confirm whether the three were students.

Anakbayan USA members
But Yves Nibungco, national chairperson for Anakbayan USA, told reporters outside the venue that the three were not students but their members who found their way into the event.  Only Columbia students and other affiliates were allowed to register for the forum.
He could not, however, reveal their names pending the advice of their legal counsel.
Nibungco, who led at least 30 protesters in front of the Low Memorial Library inside the Columbia campus, said they were protesting the impunity and corruption in the Philippines.
"The Aquino government continues to murder the Filipino people by sending its military to kill and hunt down community activists,” he said.
“Fifty million dollars of our tax in the US is being sent to fund the murderous and notorious Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
He likewise accused government officials of pocketing P1.5 billion in aid for victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

Arroyo 'dictatorship,' Corona conviction

Before the open forum, Aquino delivered a speech highlighting the recent achievements of the Philippines, among them the ratings upgrades from credit agencies and the expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer system and of the health coverage for the poor.
“Dismantling the culture of corruption, establishing a level playing field, strategically investing in the people, and addressing their vulnerabilities have allowed the Philippines to realize its long dormant economic potential,” he said.
He then mentioned former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom he again compared to former President Ferdinand Marcos.
"To some, democracy was a tool to be manipulated; power was a seat to be claimed, from which one could impose his or her will upon the people. This was most apparent in the nine-and-a-half-year administration of my predecessor. Instead of learning the lessons of history under the dictatorship, she seemed to have taken a course on how to abuse the system, straight from Mr. Marcos’ playbook,” he said.

Earlier during his speech at the Harvard University on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), Aquino also took a swipe at Mrs. Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest on plunder charges.

"At the end of her regime, our people were so apathetic to all the scandals and issues affecting her, and government’s inability to effect change, that the overwhelming ambition of so many was to leave the country," Aquino said in his Harvard speech.

Also during his speech at the Columbia University, President Aquino cited the conviction of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court in May 2012 as one of the products of his government’s reforms.
"The message is clear: Gone are the days when money, power, and influence determined one’s innocence or guilt,” he said.
“For so long, we have endured the tyranny of self-serving administrations and the indifference of the world, but now, finally, my country, once an often-overlooked archipelago in the Pacific, is poised to remain in the global spotlight, as proof of what a mobilized citizenry and a government of integrity are capable of,” he added. — KG/RSJ, GMA News