“Our unity is the only effective obstacle against a dictatorship.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — This year’s State of the Nation Address protest could be mistaken as a parade of under the sea creatures; only that it carries significant calls like “Atin ang Pinas! China layas!”
The almost 40,000 strong protesters withstood the heavy rain yesterday to echo their grievances against the Duterte administration ranging from its subservience to China to the workers’ call for salary increase and an end to contractualization.
Called as the United People’s SONA, groups vowed to further unite against a “dictator president.”
Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) commended the huge number of people who joined the protest, which, she said, shows the real state of the nation.
“Tuwang tuwa ang lolang aktibista nyo dito. Hindi kayo natakot sa ulan, at lalong lalo na hindi kayo natakot kay Duterte,” said Mananzan during the program. (Your activist grandma is elated. You were not afraid of the rain and most especially you are not afraid of Duterte.)
She said now is the time to unite and show the people’s strength especially that democracy is being threatened as Duterte has made steps to control all branches of government.
Duterte’s subservience to China
Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson, lambasted Duterte’s inaction on many issues hounding China and its incursion into the West Philippine Sea.
He said Duterte, like China, continues to neglect the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.
He called Duterte, “bentador” and a traitor against the Filipino people when he admitted that he made a deal with China’s president, Xi Jin Ping, to not assert the right of the Philippines to the West Philippine Sea.
This, he added, is enough to file impeachment complaint against Duterte.
Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares asked, “What help did China extend to Duterte during the elections that he immediately changed after he won the presidency?”
Colmenares is referring to Duterte’s brave stance against China during the 2016 presidential elections.
He said there is no truth that China will wage war against the Philippines because the international community will surely oppose it. “Our neighboring countries, smaller than the Philippines at that, is standing against China’s incursion. But Duterte does not,” he added.
3 years of Duterte presidency is misery for the people
The groups lamented that for three years, the administration of Duterte has not brought comfort to the Filipino people.
It has been three years of misery, they said, as life has become more difficult. The government data shows that inflation has gone down from 6.7 percent in the past year to 2.7 percent as of June this year. However, people of the marginalized sector did not feel it.
Former Agrarian Reform Secretary and Chairperson Emeritus of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Rafael Mariano said that with the enactment of Rice Tariffication Law, farmers experienced further bankruptcy with the influx of imported rice in the market. He said the price of the farmers’ produce are too cheap that they did not earn at all from their harvest. He said a palay now only costs P14 to P16 per kilo.
“The cost of production is too expensive and yet they only sell it at a low price. This has resulted in the bankruptcy of many farmers,” Mariano said.
Leody De Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, meanwhile, criticized Duterte for not being true to his promise as contractualization has not ended. What’s worse is that there is the Security of Tenure bill, which, he said, only legalizes contractualization.
Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson said that under Duterte, workers work to live and not to earn.
“Three years under Duterte, workers’ wages are pegged far below living standards, contractualization remains rampant and legitimized, and unemployment is still one of the worst in Asia. The ITUC’s global index rights index listed Philippines as one of the top ten world’s worst country for workers in terms of trade union and human rights. If Duterte can’t do anything about it, then he must go,” said Labog.
Satire artist Mae Paner’s performance depicted the life of the Filipino people and how China has slowly taken over the Philippines. “Mayaman ang Pilinas, pero ang mga Pilipino naghihirap pa rin!” (The country is rich in resources but the Filipino people are still poor.) She wore a camiso chino with a net and a shark in her back painted with China’s flag.
Mothers from Rise Up for Life and for Rights also lamented how they were deprived of justice just because their loved ones were allegedly “drug users.” They appeal for independent investigation especially now that the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Iceland’s resolution to conduct comprehensive investigation on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay hit the Philippine National Police’s data on the drug-related killings saying that from 6,000 deaths, it is now 5,000.
“Are they like Comelec (Commission on Elections), the number changes in just a blink of an eye?” she asked.
She also slammed the Duterte administration for attacking its critics — from Sen. Leila de Lima, the peace consultants, the farmers fighting for their land, activists and human rights defenders who are being slapped with trumped-up charges.
“To dissent against the government is not a crime. It is not terrorism,” she added.
Unite against dictatorship
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said a dictator can be defeated if the Filipino people are united.
“The President is acting like a dictator and there seems to be no end to his evil designs. Where could we derive our strength? We could derive our power from collective action, from our united ranks fighting for sovereignty and democracy. Our unity is the only effective obstacle against a dictatorship,” Reyes said in Filipino.
Joshua Mata of Kalipunan said now more than ever the people should unite against Duterte. “We have experienced dictatorship before, will we let it happen again now?” he asked to which the people answered with a resounding no.
The program ended with a performance by rapper Calix with his song, Giyera ng Bulag, a single from Kolateral album that tackles Duterte’s so-called war on drugs. “Di mo ba nakita, Duterte, mga tao din kami!” (Can’t you see Duterte, we are humans.) was Calix’s last line that received applause from the audience.