Women activists push against police in front of the US embassy in Manila (photo by Rene Sandajan)
Scuffles broke out at a “lightning rally” staged by a left-wing women's group outside the United States embassy in Manila today, on the eve of International Women's Day. Members of the Gabriela group had gathered to throw red paint at the embassy building but were kept at bay by police, according to radio reports. The women were protesting what they say is the continued presence of US military forces in the Philippines. The US has around 600 military personnel in the country, many of them advisers helping to counter terrorist groups in the south. A shoving match between the police and the women ensued, with some members of the media being hit with the red paint that was meant to be hurled at the embassy. Unable to get closer to the embassy, the women read out several statements before leaving the area, the radio reports said. Meanwhile, another group of women marched to Mendiola Bridge near the Malacanang presidential palace today to demand the government address women's concerns. The Freedom from Debt Coalition accused the Aquino administration of failing to effectively address issues such as housing, education and women's health.