SONA 2013
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Leftists start protests with march to Aquino house in QC


URGENT ISSUES With placards bearing people’s urgent demands to the government propped up behind him, an artist works on protest masks that look like President Aquino in a house in Manila’s Sta. Mesa district. The masks will be worn during Monday’s rally against Aquino’s Sona. RICHARD A. REYES

The security services have monitored no specific threats in Metro Manila in connection with President Aquino’s annual State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

But protesters belonging to several militant groups in Southern Tagalog began to arrive in Metro Manila on Sunday to prepare for big rallies in the metropolis Monday.

Members of Gabriela, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Anakpawis, Anakbayan and Migrante converged on the Mabuhay Rotunda in Quezon City and marched to Times Street, where President Aquino lived before moving to Malacañang in 2010, to protest against his “antipoor and procapitalist regime.”

The Quezon City police deployed a riot force to Times Street to stop the protesters from proceeding to the President’s old home.

The protesters carried a model of President Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” (straight path) program designed like a steamroller driven by Uncle Sam and running over “innocent civilians.”

Andrianne Mark Ng, spokesman for Bayan-Southern Tagalog, said the model represented “Daang Nakamamatay” (Highway of Death).

“A road that kills the poor it ought to serve and a straight path only for the local and foreign rich is what summarizes [President Aquino’s] first three years in Malacañang,” Ng explained.

Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, spokesman for the Philippine National Police, said at least 9,000 policemen would be stationed around the legislative complex in Quezon City and in other parts of the metropolis where thousands of protesters were expected to hold rallies.

Sindac said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and other government agencies would field their own personnel to help the police manage traffic and ensure peace and order throughout the day.

Red alert

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has placed its units in the National Capital Region under red alert and put a 500-strong contingency team on standby.

“There’s no particular threat (regarding the President’s Sona). But we have put in place a security plan … for this event,” Sindac told the Inquirer over the phone.

“We will also have auxiliary units that will help us direct traffic and maintain peace and order,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said the military was monitoring the security situation in the metropolis in close coordination with the police.

“We will not have specific deployment of our men. They are mostly on-call from major camps in Metro Manila. But they will just be there as a contingency (unit) … for security operations in support of the PNP,” Zagala said.

Additional muscle

At least 400 policemen from Central Luzon were sent to Metro Manila on Sunday to beef up security forces in the capital.

Chief Supt. Edgardo Ladao, Central Luzon police director, said the policemen would help the metro police in crowd management or dispersal.

He said the Central Luzon police had been monitoring the movements of groups scheduled to mount protests as the President addresses a joint session of Congress.

Ladao said checkpoints had been set up in Angeles and Tarlac cities, where demonstrations are usually held.

Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, chief of the military’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), said he had ordered his troops to be “extra-vigilant to avoid sabotage and spoilers.”

Chapters of the Bayan and the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya have plans to hold local rallies and send members to protest actions in Metro Manila.

Military upgrade

In Nueva Ecija, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who attended the change of command at the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID) headquarters in Fort Magsaysay on Friday, said he expected Aquino to mention in his speech the government’s gains in security operations and the plan to upgrade the military’s equipment.

Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, newly installed commander of the 7th ID, said Aquino had surpassed in three years what his predecessors accomplished in the modernization of the military.

“We have instituted a lot of changes and more are coming. We have new military trucks and helicopters being used in rescue operations. [Coming are] 44,000 new firearms and force protection, like vests and helmets,” Iriberri said.

Initial protests

Bayan mounted initial protests in Bacoor City, Cavite; Sto. Tomas town, Batangas; Taytay town, Rizal; and San Pedro town, Laguna, Sunday morning.

The protesters decried what they called the true, dire condition of the communities in the provinces.

Threats to slums

Ng said his group’s protest highlighted the threats of demolition to the slums coming from government and private partnership programs.

Among the threats, he said, were the impending demolition of the homes of some 100,000 families in the coastal towns of Bacoor, Noveleta, Rosario and Kawit in Cavite to give way to the P60-billion LRT Line 1 Cavite extension and the displacement of around 400,000 families around the Laguna Lake should the lake road dike project push through.

Bayan also assailed the continuing “militarization” in the communities on Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province.

“There’s no denying that (the) situation on the ground has gotten worse,” Ng said of the President’s performance in his first three years in office.

Ng said around 1,000 members of Bayan from Southern Tagalog arrived in Metro Manila Sunday afternoon for a “grand assembly” in Quezon City in preparation for Monday’s protest.

Ng also cited increasing prices of basic commodities and utilities, and raised fears that the Aquino administration’s plan to the US military access to Philippine military bases could clear the way for more human rights abuses by the military.

Simultaneous protests

In the Visayas, thousands of people are expected to join rallies on Panay Island as Aquino addresses Congress Monday.

In Iloilo City, Bayan will lead simultaneous protest actions expected to be joined by at least 4,000 people, according to Reylan Vergara, spokesman for the group in Panay.

The protesters will converge on five assembly points in the city by noon before marching to the Iloilo provincial capitol where they will hold a rally.

A rally against tuition increases and cuts in government subsidy to education will also be held on the capitol grounds.

The rallies will protest President Aquino’s public-private partnership program, especially projects involving vital industries and infrastructure.

“Under President Aquino vital services and infrastructure like ports, airports, power plants and other basic services have been handed to big corporations under onerous terms disadvantageous to the government and the public,” Vergara said.

In Roxas City in Capiz province, at least 700 people are expected to join a rally in the public plaza.

In the capital town of Kalibo in Aklan province, the provincial chapter of Bayan will lead at least 500 protesters in a rally in Pastrana Park.

In the morning, coconut farmers led by the group called Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (Claim) will gather at the provincial capitol to press for the distribution of P70 billion in recovered assets that had been acquired with coconut levy funds.


Relief for workers

In Davao City, militant groups will hold a rally at Rizal Park in the afternoon. Thousands are expected to join, according to Bayan.

Sheena Duazo, Bayan regional secretary general, said militant groups were also going to hold protest actions in the cities of General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Zamboanga, and in the Caraga Region to express their dismay over the President’s performance during the first half of his six-year term.

Duazo said Bayan would answer the President’s speech with its own version of the state of the nation and give Aquino failing marks in dealing with poverty.

Dodong Basilio, secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), said workers had continued to press for a P125 across-the-board, legislated wage increase that at least three administrations had ignored.

He said the protest would also condemn a Department of Labor and Employment order that ensured the continued “contractualization” of labor, preventing workers from organizing trade unions.

“After three years under P-Noy (the President’s nickname), there is still no relief for workers. We are dismayed,” Basilio said.

Against mining

In General Santos, the Bayan-led protest will start at 9 a.m., with protesters traveling to Koronadal City in South Cotabato province for a rally against mining in front of the provincial capitol.

A similar rally will be staged in Digos City in Davao del Sur province.—With reports from Jeanette Andrade in Manila; Tonette Orejas and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos, Inquirer Visayas; and Germelina Lacorte and Aquiles Z. Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Philippines , Politics , Protests , rallies , Sona , State of the Nation Address

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