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‘Sea of protest’ sweeps Commonwealth for United People’s SONA 2019

The eventual downpour of rain did not stop an estimated 40,000 protesters from marching along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City in the mass mobilization dubbed the United People’s SONA held yesterday, July 22, ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The program that followed, Ipaglaban ang Pinas!, featured several political personalities from the opposition, including former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, former Otso Diretso senatorial candidate Chel Diokno, and former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who discussed issues such as the West Philippine Sea dispute, human rights, and dictatorship, respectively.

(Fight for the Philippines!)

The “sea of protest”—as UGATLahi Artist Collective spokesperson Marian Ramirez described it—served as an avenue for various groups to raise points on contractualization, rice tariffication, jeepney modernization, agrarian reform, martial law in Mindanao, among others.

Asserting sovereignty

Accompanied by the repeated chanting of “Atin ang ‘Pinas,” much of the demonstration slammed the administration’s response to Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea. Among those who spoke on the matter was Colmenares, who said that Duterte is letting China claim Philippine territory and oppress Filipino fishermen.

(The Philippines is ours.)

He further expressed what he thought Duterte should do amid the issue. “Dapat niyang tindigan ang ating teritoryo; dapat niyang tindigan ang ating mga mangingisda; dapat niyang tindigan ang ating dangal bilang Pilipino,” he declared.

(He should stand up for our territory; he should stand up for our fishermen; he should stand up and defend our honor as Filipinos.)

The former lawmaker argued that the Philippine government felt more like a spokesperson of China rather than of its own people, given the actions it took regarding the Recto Bank incident, where the collision of a Chinese and Philippine vessel resulted in the endangerment of 22 Filipino fishermen. Duterte dismissed it as a “maritime incident.”

Accompanying Colmenares was Sanlakas Secretary-General Aaron Pedrosa, who lamented on the Philippines’ history of being subjected to foreign invaders, which, he claimed, is happening once again. China and other foreign invaders, he alleged, are building up their forces within Philippine territory to further their political agendas.

He stated, “Last I checked, Republic of the Philippines pa tayo. Kung hindi tayo maninindigan, baka ibang republika na ito.”

(Last I checked, this is still the Republic of the Philippines. Perhaps if we stop being concerned [with our country], this republic might end up being someone else’s.)

Democracy, labor, various concerns

Diokno used his speaking time to argue for the case of the human rights situation in the country. 

He also noted that the human rights situation in the country has gotten worse. Sharing his analysis on how the administration caused the human rights concern, Diokno pointed out, “Hindi siya (Duterte) galit sa human rights. Siya ay takot sa human rights kasi ang ibig sabihin ng ‘human rights’ ay lahat ng tao ay pantay-pantay. Ayaw na ayaw ng administrasyong ito ‘yung ganyang klase ng pag-iisip.”

([Duterte] is not mad at human rights. He is afraid of human rights because ‘human rights’ means that all people are equal. This administration does not want that kind of thinking.)

Meanwhile, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMK) Chairperson Leody de Guzman called out Duterte for his failure to ban contractualization as he had previously promised. 

According to de Guzman, since Duterte began his presidency, he had only accomplished the opposite of what he pledged, with Senate Bill 1826—an act that focuses on strengthening the rights of workers and putting an end to endo contractualization—only formalizing the process itself.

Kung dati ay practice lamang ang contractualization na kinukonsente ng gobyerno, ngayon ay magagawa nang Republic Act,” he feared.

(If back then the government was only giving their consent to practice contractualization, now it is actually being formalized and turned into a Republic Act.)

Among the protesters, Union President of the workers of Sun Logistics Technologies Jonathan Irinca hoped that Duterte would tackle the regularization of workers in his speech, arguing how the President failed to keep his promise of ending short-term employment practices in the Philippines. Companies such as NutriAsia and Peerless Products Manufacturing Corporation, he claimed, still practice endo contractualization.

Danilo Ramos of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Partylist also mentioned issues that plague the agricultural sector of the Philippines, such as farmer landlessness and their struggles in having to loan equipment to make produce. The loaning process, Ramos disclosed, often requires a large payment in return for services, robbing farmers of a chance to set a fair price for their products.

A native Aeta from Pampanga, Rico Labal struggled with the fact that his home is being invaded by massive corporations such as the Clark Development Corporation, who plan to construct the New Clark City project. The aforementioned plan, which covers about 3,000 hectares of land from Pampanga to Zambales, includes part of Labal’s ancestral lands, he revealed.

This was among the reasons why some of his people attended SONA, he added, pressing, “Dapat huwag isulong yung ganoong project sa kabundukan [dahil] maapektuhan yung ating mga karapatan sa lupang ninuno.”

(They should not push for such projects in the mountains because our ancestral land rights are being affected.)

On the other hand, Subanen native Lorna Señara from Zamboanga del Sur shared her plight under martial law in Mindanao. Describing her group’s experience with military presence, she said they have been through harassment, have witnessed the killings of their leaders, and have remained subject to military monitoring.

The same was the call made by Kerlan Fanagel of the lumad confederation, Pasaka, in his speech. “Libo-libo pang mga mamamayan, mga Lumad, mga magsasaka, mga manggagawa, mga Moro ang nananatili at nagpapatuloy sa paglaban sa martial law sa Mindanao,” he declared, after stating that protests were also happening in Mindanaoan cities such as Davao City, General Santos City, Butuan City, Tandag City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Marawi City.

(There are still thousands of residents, Lumads, farmers, workers, [and] Moros that remain and continue to fight against martial law in Mindanao.)

In addition to the ethical concerns previously mentioned, Sereno also sought accountability for the victims of the Duterte administration’s alleged extrajudicial killings, criticizing the President’s disrespect toward the Filipino people and God. “Wala [pa] akong nakitang pangulo o administrasyon na kasingbilis ang pagwasak sa pagkatao ng Pilipino,” she declared.

(Never have I seen a president or an administration so swiftly destroy the human nature of Filipinos.)

with reports from Ramon Castañeda

Jan Emmanuel Alonzo

By Jan Emmanuel Alonzo

Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

Contributor of University and Vanguard since TLS 58. Internal Development Manager in TLS 59. Currently designing the new website.

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