Protesters shun meeting with Duterte
What a difference a year makes, particularly in the bittersweet relationship between President Rodrigo Duterte and militant groups during the State of the Nation Address (Sona) in 2017.
While the President, who described himself as a “socialist” early in his term, surprised protesters when he stepped out after his speech to the rally site last year, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has drawn the line for this year’s Sona: No more meetings.
“It’s perhaps for the best that the President would not go out to meet Sona protesters this year,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes. “We are certainly not looking forward to another meeting outside Batasan.”
Reyes said in a statement that the circumstances at present were much different from those of last year.
“We are diametrically opposed on many issues, such as charter change, dictatorship, human rights, sovereignty and peace,” he said. “In fact, we even made adjustments ourselves and distanced our protest venue [from Batasan] to Commonwealth [Avenue].”
Despite increasingly sour relations in 2017, particularly with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and unkept promises, such as the abolition of labor contractualization, there was still some glimmer of hope that the Left’s relationship with the President would return to a more optimistic path.
But 12 months later, hope for a more conciliatory stance was easily snuffed out in the wake of the peace process being repeatedly shelved, militant Cabinet secretaries rejected by the Commission on Appointments, “endo” (end-of-contract labor schemes) still on the table, and the first phase of tax reform passed into law.
St. Peter’s Church
Thousands of protesters from different groups are expected to gather in front of St. Peter’s Church on Commonwealth Avenue for the “United People’s Sona” today.
The protest site is situated around 2 kilometers away from the House of Representatives, a sharp contrast from last year’s site on Interim Batasang Pambansa Road, about 70 meters from where the President addressed the nation.
Aside from Bayan, groups such as the Movement Against Tyranny, Babae Ako, Coalition for Justice, Tindig Pilipinas, Intercessors for the Philippines, Sangguniang Layko and Laban ng Masa are taking part in voicing out their disappointment with the Duterte administration.
Several art pieces from different groups are to be unveiled during the protest rally.
At the centerpiece would be a “steampunk-inspired” effigy in protest over the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act and other government policies, Bayan said.
Dubbed “DuterTRAIN: Pagsagasa sa Mamamayan,” the visual protest piece created by UgatLahi Artists Collective would also reflect Metro Manila’s poor rail system and the President’s “railroading” of charter change.
Expecting continuous rains from Tropical Depression “Josie,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) will bring red umbrellas that spell “Salary Increase Now.”
On Sunday, educators from ACT presented a “report card” of the President, showing that he had failed in all subjects due to rising inflation, human rights violations under the “war on drugs” and historical revisionism with the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Reyes gave assurance that the protests would be peaceful and organized.
Some 9,500 police and government personnel will be deployed to secure the area, Chief Supt Joselito Esquivel, Quezon City Police District director, said last week.
The police force will be complemented by some 1,000 soldiers, according to Col. Noel Detoyato, public affairs office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Church bells would toll in Novaliches, Caloocan City, if the President curses or speaks ill of those he perceived as enemies during his Sona, according to Bishop Antonio Tobias.
In a pastoral letter issued on Friday, Tobias urged the faithful to make noise if they disagreed with the President’s actions or plans for the country. —Reports from Jhesset O. Enano, Tina G. Santos, Jodee A. Agoncillo, Jeannette I. Andrade, Sammy Westfall and Aliana Lois Diaz
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