Let the People Go Near Batasan on SONA Day – Bayan (PR)

News Release
July 21, 2010

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today urged the Aquino government to let the people hold a peaceful assembly near the Batasang Pambansa on July 26, when the president delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SoNA).

Bayan recalled Aquino’s his inaugural address last June 30, when he promised an end of the kind of governance that is oblivious to the people’s plight. (“Dito nagwawakas ang gobyernong manhid sa daing ng mamamayan”.)

“We cannot understand the overkill reaction of the Philippine National Police which plans to deploy 10,000 policemen during the SONA. It’s as if it’s Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who’s delivering the SONA. Why the over-reaction? The rally will be a peaceful airing of the people’s demands and grievances,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

The Bayan leader said the rallyists will focus on demands concerning national sovereignty, social justice, economic development, human rights, protection of the environment, and the forging of a just and lasting peace.

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At the rally, Bayan will be pushing for the prosecution of Arroyo and her cohorts, a stop to the extrajudicial killings of activists and journalist, economic relief for the people and higher budget for social services.

“There is no reason to bar the demonstrators from staging the program right near the Batasang Pambansa. During Arroyo’s first SONA in 2001, people were allowed to hold their assembly at the corner of Batasan Road and Commonwealth Avenue. The new administration can surely improve on that,” Reyes said.

The groups will also pause from their program when the President delivers his SONA.

“We will also be listening to the SONA of Mr. Aquino when he delivers it. We would also like to know how we will respond to the people’s clamor for change. We would like to know his response to the pressing economic and social issues, including poverty, unemployment, landlessness and hunger. We would like to know how his policies will differ from the previous administration,” he added.

For the last several years, participants of Bayan’s annual SoNA rallies have not been allowed to even get near the Batasang Pambansa. Reyes noted that during the Arroyo regime, groups taking part in the SoNA rallies would usually be allowed only as far as the Ever Gotesco Mall, which is several hundred meters away from the Batasang Pambansa.

Some of the SoNA rallies at that time were even marred by violent dispersal attempts, Reyes also noted.

“During the Arroyo administration, the distance of the rally site from Batasan has been symbolic of the great gap between the government and the people. Letting the people go near Batasan on July 26 will be a good gesture on the part of the Aquino administration. It would be better if the new government will take note of the issues and demands of the demonstrators,” Reyes said.

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