MANILA, Philippines—Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Monday the blockage of ralliers who converged before Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City near Batasang Pambansa, where President Benigno Aquino III is set to deliver his third State of the Nation Address, is a violation of the constitutional rights of the people.
The Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. earlier said 6,000 police officers were deployed along the northbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue, some 3 kilometers away from Batasan Pambansa, to block protesters from going beyond the police line starting near Ever Gotesco.
However, Bayan argued that the blockage was a violation of Batas Pambansa 880, following Quezon City governments’ alleged failure to act on the group’s application for a rally permit last July 10, stating Bayan, and its allied groups’ intention to march to and hold a rally at the Batasan Road, nearer to the Batasang Pambansa.
“As with the previous Arroyo regime, the people are once again pushed as far away from Batasan Pambansa as possible. This is a continuing reminder that the Aquino regime is not truly for the people. The regime thinks highly of itself but fears the people. It fears the truth. It simply wants to ignore and suppress the people’s legitimate demands for social justice,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Bayan said their legal counsel, Attorney Rey Cortez informed them that under BP 880, the city government has two days to act on the request of the applicant, and that an application that was not acted on within the prescribed period is “deemed approved.”
“ . . . also under the law, should the City Government choose to deny or modify the application for rally permit [change venue], it has to inform the applicant and call for a hearing. The City Government, unless it presents evidence that the rally poses a clear and present danger to the public, cannot arbitrarily change the rally venue. This much has been affirmed by a Supreme Court ruling, IBP vs. Atienza,” Bayan said.
The Philippine National Police earlier set a dialogue with various protest groups last week but only two–Rasti Delizo of Sanlakas, and Roberto Martin of Pasang Masda—attended the event.
Other invited groups were BMP, Piston, Gabriella, Anak Pawis, PMT, KMP, KMU, and Bayan.
The first group of protesters to march towards Commonwealth Avenue was Bayan-Southern Tagalog, who arrived around 6:30 a.m.
Quezon City Police Director Superintendent Mario dela Vega estimated the early protesters at 300, carrying an effigy depicting a war ship where caricatures of Aquino and “uncle Sam” are aboard, but Reyes claimed that their group will grow to a thousand later this day, despite threats of rain.
Rally groups will mainly come from the ranks of workers, farmers, urban poor, youth and students, government employees and women.
“On this day, ordinary people will gather in the streets to speak out on the true state of the nation and to tell the Aquino administration that the people will not be fooled by empty rhetoric. The people have borne the brunt of the crisis the past two years, as the regime continues its assault on people’s livelihood, human rights and national sovereignty. The rains outside we can handle. It’s the downpour of lies and half-truths during the SONA which is the problem,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that people will not be duped by Aquino’s flashy visuals and speeches because at the end of the day, “the basic issues of land, jobs, health, human rights and sovereignty are not addressed.”
Baan said that because of “privatization, deregulation and other anti-poor policies,” hunger has averaged 20 percent, or roughly 4 million families, in the entire two year s of Aquino as president, while poverty, the group said, has averaged more than 50 percent, or an estimated 10 million families, based on data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
“Aquino has succeeded in blocking any meaningful wage increase; selling out PH patrimony to big mining firms; preventing genuine land reform; and privatizing basic social services. It has succeeded in catering to the interests of big business, foreign and local. The increase in the number of Conditional Cash Transfer beneficiaries only underscores the worsening situation of the poor, as they more and more have to makes use of government dole-outs,” Reyes said.
The achievements of the government, Reyes said, such as &P credit upgrade, the rise in the stock market index, record gross international reserves, and the loan extended to the IMF, are “are all quite meaningless to the ordinary Filipino facing high prices, landlessness and low wages.”
Bayan also said that the Aquino regime has succeeded in allowing more US troops to enter the country as part of the rebalancing strategy of the US military. The group warned that the Aquino government will single-handedly reverse the gains from the eviction of US military bases in 1991, by allowing the permanent presence of US troops in the guise of “helping the Philippines against China”.