Militants: We’ve heard that last year
BAYAN REACTS. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes reacts hours after President Benigno Aquino III delivered his 2nd State of the Nation Adress. Video by INQUIRER.net’s Danica Hermogenes
The boos from the streets came almost simultaneously with the claps inside the Batasang Pambansa building as President Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
And in scenes replayed in key cities in the provinces, some 8,000 militants held a rally capped by the burning of an effigy along Commonwealth Avenue near the Sona venue in Quezon City as they lambasted the Aquino administration for not coming up with enough reforms for meaningful social change.
“We’ve heard that before, last year!” angry members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) retorted when they heard Mr. Aquino’s “wangwang” quip again Monday afternoon.
“His wangwang metaphor is already tiresome and overused,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said. “Mr. Aquino has failed to deliver and he can no longer blame the previous regime for his shortcomings.”
To symbolize their discontent, the protesters burned a 14-foot effigy of a “PeNoy” (premature duck egg) on top of a camouflage-painted jeep at around 3 p.m. The effigy had the President’s trademark eyeglasses.
Members of Sanlakas and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) held their own show on the other side of the road. Renato Magtubo, PM chair, said he saw no radical reforms implemented in Mr. Aquino’s first year in office.
“He did not do enough, even with his anticorruption efforts. What happened to the issues of labor, education and housing?” Magtubo said.
Rasti Delizo, Sanlakas spokesperson, said there was no difference between Mr. Aquino’s “neoliberal framework” and that of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “Both even use the police to block anti-Sona rallies,” he said.
In Baguio City, members of the party-list group Kabataan partook of lunch composed of rice and chayote to taunt President Aquino in a program meant to critique his first year in office. The meal was supposed to emphasize that the Aquino presidency led Filipinos to even deeper poverty.
In a statement, the group said: “The P-Noy presidency is an administration that tolerates and licenses corruption, human rights violations and further marginalizes the majority of the Filipino people.”
“It is true that one year is not enough for any president to resolve the social and economic woes of the country, but one year is enough to create building blocs for genuine reform and set strategic directions for the interest of the Filipino people. P-Noy has simply failed to do this,” it said.
The gay community in Baguio also issued its version of the Sona, which criticized Mr. Aquino’s fiscal policies. Members of the Lesbians for National Democracy (Lesbond) and the Progressive Organization of Gays (Pro-Gay) joined other militants at Malcolm Square in downtown Baguio to review Mr. Aquino’s performance in his first year in office.
About 200 protesters gathered at Tanghalang F. Vierneza or the San Pedro Gateway Park in San Pedro, Laguna province. A projector was set up at the public plaza for the live-streaming of Mr. Aquino’s speech.
Leo Fuentes, the spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Tagalog, said rallies were also held in Lucena City in Quezon province; near Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall in Cainta, Rizal province; Batangas City; and Barangay Talaba 2 in Bacoor, Cavite province.
The mass actions capped a weeklong campaign, which included protest camps, cultural programs and a regionwide transport strike on Wednesday.
The militants assailed rising prices of fuel and basic commodities, the 300-percent toll increase at the South Luzon Expressway, and the construction of coal-fed power plants in Calaca, Batangas, and in Pagbilao, Quezon, which they said would harm the environment.
They also sought justice for 12 activists in the Calabarzon region who were victims of extrajudicial killings since the start of the Aquino administration.
In Albay province, nearly 1,000 protesters led by Bayan-Bikol and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) converged at the Ninoy Aquino Park in Daraga town before marching to Peñaranda Park at the Old Albay District in Legazpi City.
In Iloilo, Aklan and Capiz provinces, around 3,700 protesters led by Bayan took to the streets for their own version of the Sona.
Some 2,500 people, mostly students and slum dwellers, assembled in front of the Iloilo City campus of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas and St. Clement’s Church before marching to the main streets. They converged at the provincial capitol grounds for a protest rally and concert.
In Tacloban City, about 500 militants were soaked from the rain as they went around the major streets before ending their rally with a program at the old bus terminal.
In Roxas City, 700 protesters burned an effigy of Mr. Aquino at the city plaza bandstand, while in Kalibo, Aklan province, some 500 people held a rally at Crossing Banga and New Washington.
Members of Bayan and its allied groups, including the Nagkahiusang Drayber sa Sugbo (United Drivers of Cebu), marched from Fuente Osmeña Street in midtown Cebu City to downtown Colon Street.
Organizers said the number of protesters reached 500, but the city’s Traffic Operations Management counted only 200.
Sanlakas, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and other affiliated groups held a “People’s Sona” at the Tabunok sports complex in Talisay City and marched toward the public market.
Two rallies—one led by Bayan and the other by Kabataan, were staged at the public plaza in Bacolod City.
In Davao City, farmers from Barangay Paquibato joined the urban poor and other sectors in a rally at Rizal Park.
Earlier, members of Kadamay picketed the office of the Presidential Communication for the Urban Poor, while those of Transmission-Piston held a rally in front of the Department of Energy’s regional office.
“We are shortchanged. That is the real state of the nation under President Aquino,” said Edil Gonzaga, secretary general of Transmission-Piston.
Apart from the rising prices of commodities, Gonzaga’s group criticized the government’s distribution of “smart” cards as “useless.” It challenged the government to scrap the 12 percent value-added tax on petroleum products.
In Zamboanga City, around 300 canning factory workers and fishermen held a rally to protest the implementation of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ Administrative Order No. 233 that imposes a 3-percent export levy on fishery products.
“The President should help the canning industries, especially those engaged in export business such as tuna and seaweeds. He should scrap the bureau’s administrative order,” said Jose Suan, president of the Philippine Integrated Industries Labor Union.
Some 35,000 workers are employed in eight canning factories in Zamboanga City, Suan said, and “this administrative order will affect thousands of workers. Around 30,000 workers will be retrenched.” Reports from Nancy C. Carvajal and Noli Ermitanio in Manila; Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Maricar Cinco and Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Jhunnex Napallacan, Joey Gabieta and Felipe Celino, Inquirer Visayas; and Jeffrey M. Tupas and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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