Reports from Andrea Punzalan
In an effort to engage the Filipinos in a discussion regarding the “true” state of the nation, a mobilization tagged as “United People’s SONA” was held yesterday, July 23, outside St. Peter’s Parish in Commonwealth Ave., Quezon City. Movement Against Tyranny, Anakbayan, Tindig Pilipinas, BAYAN, and members of the #BabaeAko movement were among the contingents who took part in the protest and expressed their defiance against the efforts of the government to initiate an overhaul of the constitution through their own State of the Nation Address (SONA).
With protesters pushing for the ousting of the President, responses of the Duterte administration to contractualization of workers, extrajudicial killings (EJKs), disinformation in the media, and the TRAIN law were some of the issues tackled as well.
United in opposition
Renato Reyes, Jr., BAYAN Secretary-General, affirmed that Pres. Rodrigo Duterte did not fail to achieve anything in his term. He added the tagline “#SalamatDigong” to his statement, citing that Duterte’s leadership caused Filipinos to unite against tyranny, dictatorship, and a charter change under the president’s regime. “Nandito tayo para kay Sr. Patricia Fox, para sa mga political prisoners na nakulong dahil sa gawa-gawang kaso, at para sa mga pamilya ng mga EJKs,” stated Reyes.
He concluded his speech by pointing out that despite not having the resources that the government has, the Filipinos have their principles, and that their weapon is their unity against the dubbed dictator.
A message from detained senator Leila De Lima was publicized for the said protest, which emphasized on which SONA the Filipinos must hear out. “Bukod sa SONA ni Duterte, marapat lang pong mapakinggan ang SONA ng sambayanang Pilipino—hindi ang mga kasinungalingan ni Duterte, kundi ang tunay na estado ng Pilipinas at ng mga Pilipino,” said De Lima through a statement delivered by Fr. Albert Alejo during the People’s SONA movement.
Coming from the Southern Mindanao Region, Kerlan Fanagel, chairperson of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organization from the said region, also claims that the true state of the nation will not be summarized in Duterte’s speech, but will come from the testimonies of those attending the United People’s SONA. He further added that their people are the targets of the government’s “wars”. “There is no substantial change under Duterte as economic woes, the all-out-war and Martial Law worsen our hardships and hunger in Mindanao,” Fanagel adduced.
Testimonies from members of Rise Up highlighted the struggles of the families left behind by the victim of EJKs. In a statement, the coalition emphasized on their claim that the “War on Drugs” proved to be a war on the poor. “You deliberately put a position in place for mass murder,” cried out Budit Carlos of the In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND). Carlos asserted that Duterte will “soon be accountable” in regard to the cases of EJKs in the Philippines.
Leading the Filipino in protesting against the shift to federalism, ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno stated that the change in the constitution hints of the possible emergence of a dictator. “Ayaw po natin ng diktaturya lalo na nakita na natin na pinahina ni Pangulong Duterte ang mga institusyon na dapat ay nangaalaga sa ating demokrasya at karapatang pantao,” stated Sereno during her speech.
The program concluded with the burning of effigies, in symbolism of the rally by the opposition to put an end to Duterte’s presidency.
Messages to the President
After the initial program in the campus grounds of University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), Piston President George San Mateo imparted that the message his organization would relay to Duterte was that they were ready to fight against the jeepney phase out and jeepney modernization programs of the government. “Handa kaming harapin ‘yan ng buong lakas at sama-samang pagkilusan,” San Mateo declared.
For Bayan Muna-Mandaluyong Chapter President Adele Pabulao, the Duterte administration should be able to address problems in both unemployment and education in the country. “Iyan dapat ang matutukan nila. Ang gusto ko lang iparating ay sana may pagbabago na; ang sobrang hirap dito ngayon,” quoted Pabulao.
Discussions regarding the legality contractualization of workers paved the way for representatives from the sector to turn up at the mobilization. Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng NUTRIASIA Union President Jessie Gerola called on the President to abolish Department Order 174-17, which legalizes employees being hired as contractuals. Gerola appealed as well to the masses to “fight for their rights, and that of the oppressed” in order to improve the system of the government.
Involvement of the youth
Students from different La Salle schools attended the United People’s SONA yesterday as one contingent, the One La Salle for Human Rights and Democracy. Officers from the University Student Government were not able to push through with their initiative to involve the student body in the mobilization due to the cancellation of classes.
Youth Act Now Convenor Raoul Manuel asserted that the involvement of the youth in the United People’s SONA is a testament that the youth has always “played its historical role in advancing change in society.” “The youth can be more involved in these gatherings if ever the student leaders among the ranks of student councils, publications, and organizations are less conservative when it comes to how we study social issues,” Manuel addressed. He further added that the youth must go beyond the stereotypes of the apolitical and apathetic, to “really try to be educated about social issues.”
Organizers of the event claimed the United People’s SONA to be the biggest protest in the three occasions of Duterte’s delivery of his “own” SONA, and recognized the event as a “unifying movement” for the nation’s constituents.