By RED CARAO
The alliance of progressive groups, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), is bringing an effigy back to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), after skipping the tradition last year.
After assessing the first year of President Rodrigo Duterte, Bayan and its member organizations have decided to make an effigy again to depict their contentions about the policies that were implemented during the past months, and the promises Duterte failed to keep. Through art, the group also showcases the people’s opposition to such policies.
Traditionally, Bayan’s effigy is a caricature of the highest official of the land, the President, as defined by a dominant policy or character of the administration. Another tradition is the burning of the effigy, to show the people’s rage against the ruling system and its representative.
In this year’s effigy, Duterte is not the main feature.
“[The theme of the effigy] is the continuing economic and political repression in the country,” said Max Santiago of Ugat Lahi, a cultural group tasked with the construction of the effigy.
Santiago cited the continuing neoliberal policies and militarization, and the resulting economic and political repression under the Duterte administration. He added that their effigy will feature US intervention in the country.
Drawing inspiration from the movie, Mad Max, the effigy to be burned tomorrow bears the semblance of Uncle Sam and US President Donald Trump. The character representing the US has a face mask connected to a globe, portrayed to look as though it is living off the resources of the earth; which the group sees as the root of Philippine poverty.
Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III also made it in this year’s effigy, alongside Duterte. Lorenzana represents the political repression, and Dominguez represents the economic issues that the group wanted to emphasize about the Duterte administration.
Bayan’s Gel Marcelino said that the decision to make an effigy came from a careful analysis of Duterte’s term, and his policies that are affecting the Filipino people. Their group previously lauded Duterte’s pronouncements to fight for an independent foreign policy and to end policies, such as contractualization and the presence of US troops in the country, hence the absence of an effigy last year.
Instead, rallyists in last year’s SONA carried depiction of the People’s Agenda, the changes they want to see and had proposed to Duterte, such as genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization and a self-sustaining economy.
However, the group observed that the same policies still exist after the change of officials.
Marcelino said that this is where the role of the mass movement comes in.
“The mass movement wants Duterte to listen to them,” Marcelino said. “However, at the end of the day, we believe it is in the hands of the masses to fight for the change they want, it is a combination of mobilizations in the streets and lobbying in Congress.”
The burning of the effigy symbolizes the people’s rejection of these policies which, according to Bayan, has done nothing to improve the lives of the Filipino people.
However, Teddy Casino from Bayan said that the act of burning the effigy bearing Duterte’s likeness has not been decided yet by the group. In their ranks, there are some opposing views whether it should be burned or not.
“[Burning the effigy] is an act of condemnation. It has a symbolic sense, almost like burning bridges. We do not know how [Duterte] will react if we burned it, but nevertheless it will send a strong message,” Casino said.
Unlike last year where there were no anti-president sentiments during the rally, various progressive groups are expected to march towards Batasan Complex for a rally showcasing their grievances against Duterte. Among the protesters are more than a hundred Lumad evacuees from Mindanao, whose call is for Martial Law to be lifted and for the militarization of their land to stop.
(Updated July 25, 2017, 2:45 AM)