By SHEERAH ESCUDERO
MANILA — Unified by their discontent with the current administration, youth groups announced they will join the United People’s SONA to counter President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.
Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), and College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) voiced out their “long depleted hopes on the government under the three years of Duterte’s presidency.”
“The lives of already afflicted Filipino people have been dragged back into a deeper darkness through the relentless attacks in the face of extra-judicial killings, demolitions, and worsening socio-economic crisis,” they said in a statement.
“President Rodrigo Duterte once threatened us [youth leaders and student activists] but why can’t he kick out China for our national sovereignty?” said Isaac Punzalan, of Kasama sa UP in a press conference at the Commision on Human Rights (CHR) last July 19.
Punzalan said that he will join the United People’s SONA because of the urgent need to defend the country’s national sovereignty.
“I have already experienced marching with the thousands of Filipino people, and I am willing, together with my fellow students, to once again go out in the streets to fight for our rights and freedom,” he added.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago, meanwhile, said she expects “nothing less than sheer disappointment from President Duterte’s yet another scripted brouhaha.”
Elago said that similar to the previous SONA speeches, the President will just will once again avert the attention of the Filipino people from the legitimate issues faced by the country.
“On the face of China’s territorial intrusion and aggression, the youth is coerced to undergo mandatory ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] regardless of the program’s history of abuses and harassment.” she added.
Sense of true nationalism
The groups emphasized that the government instills nothing but false sense of nationalism and blind obedience among the youth with priority bills such as the mandatory ROTC and lowering of minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) from 12 years old to nine years old.
“The true nationalism is about joining the People’s SONA, not through joining the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), because they are the real human rights violators,” said senior high student Rinoa Duero.
The youth groups also opposed the administration’s counterinsurgency programs such as Oplan Sauron in Negros which resulted in rampant illegal arrests, torture and killings, and Oplan Kalasag in the cities.
Alex Danday of Anakbayan said they will never let the abuses continue, and that Duterte’s three years of administration is enough and must put to an end.