By DIANNE LEABAN AND ALESSANDRA MERCADO
MANILA — Progressives reiterated their demands and challenges to Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday, July 16, in a gathering dubbed as the “People’s Summit: Tunay na Pagkakaisa para sa Tunay na Pagbabago.”
In a statement, Rosario Guzman of Ibon Foundation said that 200 individuals from 100 organizations of different advocates and sectors gathered for three days to “propose basic reforms that the country needs.”
“They are divided into six clusters representing our demands in the field of economy, social policy, human rights, effective governance, sovereignty, and freedom of speech,” Guzman said.
The group said that under former President Duterte, the people suffered from various policies that did not serve their interests. The new administration of Marcos Jr. meanwhile did not present concrete reforms.
“What we are presenting are not mere suggestions or requests. These are people’s demands, and a comprehensive plan for genuine change.”
Demands of the agriculture sector
Estavillo stated economic demands mainly in the agriculture sector.
Marcos Jr. is temporarily the country’s agriculture secretary, citing urgent needs to address the looming food crisis.
“For us farmers, we fight for genuine land reform. We desire to have new and organic agriculture that will lead to a rural development, including the realization of our right to food, and increasing the income of the farmers and fishermen,” she said.
Estavillo also discussed the demands of workers in the country, saying that reforms should lead to strengthening the country’s economy.
“For workers, the basis for national industrialization should be laid down. We desire to build an industry for Filipinos. We want to create jobs, increase salaries, and be productive and integrate the national economy.”
Jocelyn Andamo of Filipino Nurses United and Health Alliance for Democracy stressed the importance of improving the public health service.
She discussed the situation in the health sector, saying that “the crisis caused by the pandemic is still not resolved until now. That is why, this is our big concern in response to the crisis in health and the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Andamo said.
She said the Duterte administration did not develop health services in the country, instead, he funded the military forces. On the ground, people were demanding proper health services.
According to Andamo, half of the barangay health services in the country did not have enough medical equipment, medicines, and health workers.
“The government should allocate 10 percent of gross domestic product for our public health. Strengthen the health care system in the country, Philhealth increase contribution, increase the salary of doctors, nurses, and health workers, and prosecute and condemn those all involved in Pharmally and Philhealth corruption,” she said.
The fight for human rights
Human rights lawyer Maria Sol Taule called for freedom to be granted to hundreds of political prisoners who have been unjustly detained.
“There are more than 800 political prisoners in the country, 500 of whom were arrested under the Duterte administration,” she said, calling to mind the harsh reality that these people have been facing within four prison walls for decades.
Taule called for the immediate release, as well as access to medical attention and humane treatment while in custody of these political prisoners, including the sick, elderly, minors, breastfeeding mothers, and peace consultants that are supposedly covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) holders, one of the major documents signed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines..
Taule also called for accountability from the Marcoses for the countless human rights violations committed during the regime of the late president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., through a public apology, reparations, and continuous support to martial law victims and their families.
She also urged for the decriminalization of libel in relation to press freedom, the right to privacy, and the right to public assembly—as well as reinvestigations on the repression against progressive groups and alternative media through distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks and website blocking under the guise of the anti-terror law.
“The killings against protectors of human rights should be stopped and mechanisms of protection against any form of threat to their lives, freedom, and security should be established.”
“The ones who ordered, motivated, and committed the killing, red-tagging, detaining, and any other human rights violation against these people should be held accountable,” she said, “not excluding those who have done nothing for that matter.”
On good governance, genuine democracy
Catherine Joy Brillantes of the Movement for Good Governance and Genuine Democracy said that good governance is the real solution to poverty, inequality, and injustice.
“Good governance is democratic, transparent, and accountable for the management of environmental, economic, and financial recourses for an equal and sustainable social justice,” she said.
The groups said that the Marcos administration—with reports of corruption, historical distortion, and disinformation, and with its family history of authoritarian rule, graft, and tax evasion—poses uncertainty for good governance, following the Duterte administration also had its share of abuses and incompetencies.
For Brillantes, the primary goal, in the context of recourse and administration, is and should be to ensure that the government meets the needs of the people for adequate recourses, and competent products and services.