Duterte critics ask China: Get out of PH
MANILA, Philippines – There are issues that militant groups have repeatedly raised every State of the Nation Address (Sona), regardless of who the country’s president is — from accusations of United States-sponsored imperialism, woeful labor conditions, and human rights abuses.
These issues were still brought up as President Rodrigo Duterte was making his fourth Sona on Monday, but apparently, this year was special. Instead of seas of red, Commonwealth Avenue was filled with protesters wearing blue shirts — apparently an ode to an “under the sea” theme.
This year’s focus was on upholding the country’s sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, amid recent incidents involving China. Protesters already claimed that it was the biggest anti-China protest.
According to Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares, they were becoming speculative of what Duterte stands to gain — or has already gained — from its alliance with China, after he initially stressed that the disputed area belongs to the Philippines.
Duterte recently said that China can fish in the country’s exclusive economic zone — an action that his critics deemed as an impeachable offense.
“Noong eleksyon, hinalikan pa ni President Duterte ang ating watawat. Sabi niya, tindigan niya sa pamamagitan ng jetski ang ating teritoryo laban sa Tsina,” Colmenares recalled during the United People’s Sona along Commonwealth Avenue.
“Hindi natin alam kung anong tulong ang binigay sa kanya ng Tsina noong eleksyon pero no’ng nanalo na siya, bumaliktad si President Duterte. Hinayaan niyang kunin ang ating teritoryo, hinayaan niyang apihin ang ating mangingisda,” he told the crowd.
Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was impeached under Duterte’s term, said that revelations of a verbal agreement with Chinese President Xi Jingping is alarming.
“Nakakakilabot ang ginagawa nila. Para bang handa silang ibenta tayo nang hindi natin alam,” she told reporters after her speech at the United People’s Sona.
The views of Colmenares and Sereno reflected the sentiments of other protesters. Most of the placards and protest materials called on Duterte’s administration to assert rights over the country’s territorial waters.
Some of the rallyists’ props also mimicked Gem-Ver 1, the local fishing boat which was sunk in a collision with a Chinese vessel last June 9 at Recto Bank — well within the country’s exclusive economic zone. Others wore caricatured and vicious versions of sea creatures, likening them to the government.
References to the sea were well placed in the protest. In fact, the effigy created by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) named “Dutershokoy” showed Duterte as an evil merman with a flag of China on the right hand and a gun on the left.
Earlier in the day, urban poor group Kadamay stormed the National Housing Authority (NHA) office, renewing their call for a decent socialized housing. Kadamay chair Bea Arellano said the housing units they occupied in 2017 are still without basic services such as electricity and water.
“Three years na ang Pangulong Duterte na hanggang ngayon ay hindi inaayos para ibigay na ang pabahay,” she lamented.
On the other side of the road, members of Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Anakpawis, Anakbayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Karaptan, Kabataan, and other militant organizations demanded that government improve the lives of Filipino workers.
They also called for justice amid issues of extra-judicial killings that came with the administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
The groups marched towards St. Peter’s Parish around 12:30 p.m., amid torrential rains and strong winds against them.
During the program, former senatorial candidates Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, Leody de Guzman, and Sonny Matula also showed up. De Guzman, in particular, talked about the allegedly anti-poor labor policies of the administration.
Diokno meanwhile read a paraphrased version of a German poem, chiding Filipinos who refuse to react against Duterte’s regime even with the different issues at hand.
— Gabriel P. Lalu (@GabrielLaluINQ) July 22, 2019
— Gabriel P. Lalu (@GabrielLaluINQ) July 22, 2019
The protesters eventually dispersed at around 7:00 p.m., eventually easing traffic flow along Commonwealth Avenue. According to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Maj. Gen Guillermo Eleazar, this year’s Sona has been a successful event security-wise.
“Very peaceful. Nakita naman natin since morning halos walang single, untoward incident na nareport sa atin. Pagkatapos ng tatlong Sona na meron kaming napag-usapan, sa totoo lang hindi ako, wala akong duda na magkakaroon tayo ng problema,” Eleazar said.
“‘Yong nakita natin sa mga lessons learned natin dito is about the confrontation between the police and rallyists naperfect natin na wala for the past 3 years. Ang gusto natin maimprove is kung papaano sa mga susunod na Sona ay gusto natin malessen yung hindi magandang impact sa pagsikip ng daloy ng trapiko sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.
Numbers from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) said that anti-administration protesters peaked at 5,500, while pro-Duterte rallyists were at 3,400.
Organizers from Bayan, however, claimed that the real number could be well over 40,000, given how a huge portion of the Commonwealth Avenue’s eastbound lane was occupied.
Supporters of President Duterte meanwhile slammed the administration’s critics for supposedly not considering the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China in protesting against the Asian superpower.
“Palibhasa itong mga to ay walang kamag-anak na pwedeng pag-initan sa Hong Kong, Taipei, China. Eh tayong naghihikahos, kailangan natin magpakabuti at kaibiganin ang China sapagkat meron tayong mga kamaganak na OFW,” one of the pro-Duterte program hosts said.
They also insisted that Manila’s renewed ties with Beijing are nothing different, as Duterte implements an ‘independent foreign policy’.
“Alam naman natin lahat ay kinakaibigan ng Pangulo,” he added. “‘Yon din ang himutok ng Pangulo. Gusto rin niyag makuha ang lupa na iyon. Dahil iyon ay nakuha ng ibang administrasyon. Tapos isisisi nila sa Pangilo natin ag ginawang kahayupan,” he added.
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