Protesters hit Duterte’s ‘wrong regularization’
Angry-face emojis, transport strikes, human chains, marches, candle-lighting and black coffins greeted President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday.
In Quezon City, near the House of Representatives where Mr. Duterte delivered his Sona, critics assailed the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the scrapping of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines — the same issues raised by protesters in other parts of the country.
Various groups from several sectors, including farmers, public transport operators, students, nuns, “lumad” and other indigenous peoples held their People’s Sona, occupying the entire northbound Interim Batasang Pambansa Road and extending to Sandiganbayan on Commonwealth Avenue.
They began their march from different points on Commonwealth Avenue, chanting “Duterte, singilin” (Hold Duterte accountable).
Sister Teodora Bilocura of St. Scholastica’s College said she attended the rally to assail the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Is this the change he promised?” she told the Inquirer. “It’s more like a President that keeps changing his mind.”
The police placed the number of protesters at 10,000 but Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said the demonstrators numbered 35,000 to 40,000.
Reyes slammed Mr. Duterte’s broken promises.
“Under his administration, regularization has already happened: It is now regular to kill drug suspects, regular to sabotage peace talks, regular to militarize, and regular to spread fake news and disinformation,” Reyes said.
“Promise-breaker,” was how most of the protesters described the President.
“We are used to Duterte playing with words. He is a social media President, who is fond of saying press releases. But these are lives Duterte is playing with,” said Sean Herbet Velchez, spokesperson for the Alliance of Health Workers.
The Block Marcos Movement displayed some 1,200 shoes and slippers sprinkled with red “blood” on Commonwealth Avenue to represent those who were killed in the war on drugs and those who died in the ongoing clashes in Marawi.
The marchers paraded several pieces of protest art, including the first effigy for the Sona protest under the Duterte administration.
The effigy featured Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
A “two-faced” President was also paraded, showing a casual Mr. Duterte on one side and a Hitler-like image on the other.
At the rally, representatives from the Makabayan bloc dropped by.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Liza Maza also attended the protest, before they headed inside the Batasan complex.
In Baguio City, some 300 demonstrators marched down Session Road, wearing paper headbands bearing angry-face emojis, which millennial activists described as the grade they gave the President in his first year in office.
The marchers, led by the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), proceeded to the Igorot Park where writer Luchie Maranan mocked Mr. Duterte’s reform promises by reading her poem, “Pagbabagong Pabago-bago (Change that keeps on changing).”
Some performers in the group wore masks of the President, Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año, while chained to an activist playing Uncle Sam.
“We will recognize that positive steps were made on land reform, free tuition, free medicine, [and] the increase in the Social Security System pension fund,” the CPA said.
But the CPA said these were muted by another breakdown in the peace talks with communist rebels, the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the promotion of “antipeople and militaristic policies” like proposed increases in the value-added taxes for goods.
In Albay province, a strike affected 95 percent of public transport, said Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of Condor-Piston Bicol.
Public transport was paralyzed 100 percent in Camarines Norte, 95 percent in Sorsogon, 90 percent in Camarines Sur and 65 percent in Masbate, the organizers said.
They demanded the scrapping of a Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board order that would phase out public utility jeepneys that are at least 15 years old.
Members of the multisectoral group Cadena Bicolandia (Bicol Chain) came up with its own Sona in the Bicol region, noting, among other things, extrajudicial killings.
Protesters also formed a human chain in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, and in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.
Ian delos Santos, spokesperson for a group opposing large-scale mining, said Mr. Duterte failed to fulfill his promise to address environmental issues and distribute agricultural lands to local farmers.
Coconut farmers in Quezon province lit candles and prayed to seek heaven’s intercession so that Mr. Duterte would make good on his election promise to release the coco levy fund.
Maribel Luzara, leader of Kilusang Magbububukid sa Bondoc Peninsula, said her group also prayed that the President speed up the government land distribution program.
Close to 15,000 protesters took to the streets in Roxas City, Bacolod City, Iloilo City, Estancia town in Iloilo, Kalibo in Aklan, Tacloban City, Tagbilaran City, and Cebu City.
In red shirts
Many protesters came in red and took to task the Duterte administration for reneging on its campaign slogan “Change is coming.”
In Bacolod, protesters carried life-sized photos of Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and General Año, which they torched.
At the Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City, about 1,700 protesters led by Bayan paraded an effigy of a tank with Mr. Duterte on board along with Lorenzana, Esperon and Año.
They burned the effigy but “spared” that of Mr. Duterte as organizers said they were still pushing for him to fulfill his promises.
Alab Katipunan-Panay held a separate protest rally in Iloilo City joined by around 800 mostly farmers from towns of Iloilo province.
“Nothing much has changed, especially in agrarian reform. The farmers are still poor and landless,” said Joel Gepaya, Alab Katipunan-Panay coordinator.
In Davao City, protesters carried improvised black coffins to represent the victims of political extrajudicial killings in the region.
At least 37 activists, environmentalists and community leaders have been killed in the Davao region under the Duterte administration, according to Jay Apiag, spokesperson for Karapatan-Southern Mindanao.
Other protest actions were staged in Butuan, Zamboanga and Iligan City. —Reports from Jhesset O. Enano, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Jovic Yee in Manila; Yolanda Sotelo and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Mar S. Arguelles, Michael B. Jaucian, Maricar Cinco, Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Madonna T. Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez, Joey A. Gabieta, Leo Udtohan and Michelle Padayhag, Inquirer Visayas; Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao
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