This year’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) rally is one of the biggest and most peaceful in recent history, a militant leader said on Monday.
At least 30,000 protesters from different parts of the country marched to express support for the “progressive and nationalist” programs of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
No tense dispersals disrupted the gathering of thousands of militant protesters a stone’s throw away from the House of Representatives where Duterte is currently addressing the nation.
Speaking to reporters at the rally, Renato Reyes Jr., the secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the biggest alliance of left-leaning groups, lauded Duterte for making good on his promise that he would allow the Left to hold a rally closer to Batasan—something that his predecessors never did.
“Ni-respeto niya ‘yung karapatan nating magpahayag. Tinototoo niya lang ‘yung napagusapan sa inauguration sa Malacañang na nag-paalam tayo na sana makalapit kami,” Reyes said.
(He respected our right to free assembly and expression. He delivered on our agreement during his inauguration at the Malacañang when we asked for permission to get near the Batasan.)
“It’s been a historic march,” he added.
Reyes earlier met Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa when the latter visited the militants assembling along Commonwealth Avenue.
“Most definitely, the Sona this year will be peaceful kasi walang pinagmumulang tension. Ang pinagmumulan ng tension ‘yung panggigipit at wala ‘yon. Wala tayong dapat ikabahala,” he said.
(Most definitely, the Sona this year will be peaceful because there is no root of tension. What caused the tension before was the oppression, and that did not happen today. We have nothing to worry about.)
The protesters posed a challenge to the Duterte administration to address poverty, unemployment, landlessness and lack of social justice.
Reyes said Bayan is also calling on the government to uphold due process and protect human rights amid a spate of vigilante killings in Duterte’s anti-drug war.
“Kasama ito sa dapat tugunan ng administration—‘yung pagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao at paghinto at pagtigil sa anumang klase ng extrajudicial killings,” he said.
(The administration should also address the promotion of human rights and the end of whatever kind of extrajudicial killings.) IDL/rga