July 18, 2010
Are we back to the days of Gloria?
This was the question asked by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan as it assailed the Philippine National Police’s plan to deploy 10,000 policemen during President Benigno Aquino III’s first State of the Nation Address.
“It is strange that the PNP seems to be caught up in the previous administration’s paranoia that it wants to deploy so many cops all over Quezon City and Commonwealth Avenue. Didn’t Mr. Aquino say that we have seen the end of a government that is insensitive towards the people’s plight? Isn’t this new government willing to listen to the calls of the people from the streets? Why deploy so many policemen? Is this part of the psychological warfare to deter people from joining peaceful protest actions?” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
Bayan led massive protests during the previous SONA’s of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The group is assuring the public that this year’sSONA protest under the new administration will be peaceful and organized.
“Our focus will be the people’s demands and challenges for the new administration. The people would like to know the response of the current administration to the problems of the economy, sovereignty, landlessness, unemployment, lack of social services and escalating human rights violations. These are major challenges for the new government that require immediate attention. The SONA will be an indicator of which part of the promised ‘change’ is real and what part is just illusion,” Reyes said.
“The recent spate of extrajudicial killings will be among the main issues of the demonstrators on July 26. Of course, even if we are in the streets, we would still like to listen to Mr. Aquino’s SONA and see how he addresses these long-standing problems. If this new government is really sincere in listening to the problems of the people, then it shouldn’t surround itself with a phalanx of thousands of police in full-battle gear,” he added.
Bayan said that the venue of the protest will also be symbolic of how the present government deals with people’s demands.
“It would be good to be able to hold the protest closer to the Batasang Pambansa. It would be a positive symbolic gesture on the part of the new administration. During Arroyo’s first SONA, right after EDSA 2, demonstrators were allowed as far as the Sandigan Bayan and Batasan Road. Later years saw the protester driven farther and farther away from Batasan. The SONA demonstration should not be seen as a security threat, in the same way the previous administration saw protest actions,” Reyes said.
“We will be attending the meeting scheduled on Wednesday to discuss the details of the protest. The new government should at least show some flexibility in dealing with mass actions, and not the paranoia that was the hallmark of the past government,” he added.
Bayan called on Malacanang, including newly-appointed DILG chief Jesse Robredo and newly-elected QC Mayor Herbert Bautista to reign in the police deployment.
“The massive deployment sends the wrong message,” Reyes said.
Bayan also found it “ridiculous” for the police to be holding a “competition” on crowd-dispersal tactics, saying this is also part of the psy-war to deter people from joining street actions. Last July 17 ,the NCRPO held its annual contest among civil disturbance units as a prelude to their SONA preparations.