Two important mass actions in July will happen in Manila and the Southern Tagalog-based protesters are expected to make their voices heard.
BY DENNIS ESPADA
CALAMBA CITY – Protesters from the Southern Tagalog (ST) region are expected to lend their voices to the growing clamor for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s removal from office.
Around 2,000 people, mostly farmers and workers, will journey on-board vehicles from this city to Ayala Avenue in Makati on July 13 and 25, according to Bani Cambronero, Bayan Muna partylist regional coordinator and convenor of Southern Tagalog for the Ouster of Gloria (Stop Gloria).
A big rally in Metro Manila is set on July 13. The President, on the other hand, will deliver her State of the Nation Address on July 25.
As a broad multi-sectoral coalition, Stop Gloria coordinates with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (New Patriotic Alliance), Workers Alliance for the Immediate Stepdown of GMA (Walis GMA, or Sweep GMA), Kanayunan Laban Sa Magnanakaw at Pekeng si GMA (Kalampag, or Countryside Against Thieves and Fake GMA) and other local alliances.
Even before the disclosure of the jueteng-Gloriagate twin scandal involving the Arroyo administration, the country’s socio-economic crisis has tremendously aggravated due to soaring prices of oil, commodities and services, as well as high taxes, low wages, landlessness and corruption.
These critical moments demand significant change. Cambronero said, “As we dream of a better tomorrow for the sake of our children, it is our solemn duty to insure that, in the process of making our own history, the genuine interests and welfare of the majority will not be ignored or relegated to the background by the leaders in government.”
Militant farmers’ groups stressed that there is a “martial law-like” condition in the countryside.
In just five years, human rights organizations stressed that there are 109 peasants and activists in Southern Tagalog killed by suspected agents of the military’s “death squad.”
“True justice remains elusive for all victims of human rights violations,” said veteran activist and Kalampag spokesperson Pedro Gonzales, who himself survived an assassination plot after he was riddled with bullets by unknown assailants shortly after the May 2004 elections.
Guillermo Bautista, chairperson of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK, or Association of Peasant Organizations in Southern Tagalog) condemned the Arroyo regime for the depressed prices of agricultural products and the additional taxes brought about by the Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) Law. The Arroyo administration is currently trying to reverse a temporary restraining order imposed by the Supreme Court on the E-VAT’s implementation.
“We will not allow martial law to happen again all over the country. We do not want to experience state brutality once again just like during the Marcos era. Even without a formal declaration, the Arroyo administration has perpetrated excessive violence and fascist suppression against the people,” Bautista emphasized, adding that things will surely become worse if martial law would be declared.
Walis GMA spokesperson Rodrigo Perez, on the other hand, slammed the Arroyo government for ignoring the labor sector’s demand for a P125 ($2.23, based on an exchange rate of P56.10 per U.S. dollar) increase in the daily wage of private sector workers nationwide, and P3,000 ($53.48) monthly increase for government employees.
“Walang dudang naging numero unong tagasunod sa mga dikta ng dayuhan sa programang globalisasyon si GMA. Maging ang soberenya at patrimonya ng ating bansa ay pinahintulutang lukuban ng mga dayuhan (There is no doubt that GMA is number one in heeding the dictates of foreigners with regard to globalization. Even the sovereignty and patrimony of the country is allowed to be compromised by the foreigners.),” Perez said.
Meanwhile, the education sector suffered the brunt of government neglect with the P357-million ($6.36 billion) budget cut this year. From 17 percent in 2002, the allocation for education was further reduced to the current 14.9 percent of the total budget.
In a statement, the University of the Philippines-Los Baños Alliance Working for Arroyo’s Removal (UPLB AWARE) said that the people’s consciousness is no longer anchored on mere regime change.
“They (people) have learned from our experience in Edsa I and II that a single leader no longer holds the key in addressing their economic plight…with this, UPLB AWARE joins the rest of the nation in pushing for more viable alternatives than subscribing to constitutional succession of leaders coming from the same political fold.”
The campus-based coalition supports the creation of a transition or interim council, which will work for authentic reforms to “ensure that the pursuit of genuine democracy and governance will not be dashed by trapos (traditional politicians) who have no intent but their own self-serving interests.” Bulatlat