By JOSH AVENGOZA
MANILA — Progressive groups from various sectors filled up a section of Commonwealth Avenue and held this year’s SONA ng Bayan despite the declaration of the said main road as a ‘no-rally zone’.
The Quezon City Government granted Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) permission to stage a rally along Commonwealth, from Elliptical Road to Tandang Sora after they assailed the decision of the city’s public order and safety department to deny their request.
“There is still a long way to go before the people can truly realize the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression free from fascist impositions. It is up to the people to continue asserting their rights amid all attempts to suppress them,” Renato Reyes of BAYAN said in his tweet.
Prior to the protest, the Philippine National Police declared the whole stretch of Commonwealth Avenue as a ‘no-rally zone’ as a part of security measures during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The police force also cited saving motorists and commuters from inconvenience, but Reyes branded the policy as “illegal” and “also a usurpation of the authority of the mayor to approve rally permits”.
During the protest, different police forces are spotted along Commonwealth Avenue. Aside from the city’s police, there were also fully-armed units of Special Action Force (SAF) patrolling in overpasses and on sidewalks.
Heed groups’ calls and demands
After the march from University Avenue, UP Diliman, protesters held their program at Tandang Sora. Different sectoral groups challenged Marcos Jr. to heed their calls and fulfill what he had promised during the campaign period.
Some of the key issues raised are oil price hikes, mass lay-offs of contractual workers in government, developmental aggression among communities, attacks against activists, defenders, and critics, among others.
They also highlighted the rampant human rights violations across the country through harassment, illegal arrests, red-tagging, and extrajudicial killings and demanding justice by putting former President Rodrigo Duterte accountable and abolishing the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, to name a few.
Groups also slammed the neoliberal policies in the Philippine economy, as manifested by rising prices and joblessness.
Fight for our rights
Raymond Palatino of BAYAN reminded everyone in the protest of their right to speak up and fight for their rights, as well as the task of the Filipino people to mobilize themselves as Marcos Jr. “fails to address the crisis the people face recently.”
‘Do not forget the important lesson for today: they tried to stop this protest, to stop the People’s SONA in this road, but we persevered with our right to speak and express, we did not falter, and instead we stood up for what is right and just,” Palatino said in his closing speech in Filipino.
Palatino also emphasized the role of the people in creating history, which he said is being distorted by those in power like the Marcoses.
“They thought that by spreading gossip and lies, they could change history. But they are wrong because the people, the masses, the citizens, workers, and farmers, the united front of the oppressed people, are the real makers of history,” he ended. (RVO)