Protesters mount ‘Kontra SONA’

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Mariela Angella Oladive

Various progressive groups on Monday countered President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) with a series of initiatives and activities leading up to a significant mass protest event known as the People’s SONA.

Members of progressive groups, including Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Partido ng mga Manggagawa, gathered in front of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol in the afternoon. A heavy downpour confronted them but the protest still continued.

The protesters call on Marcos to act on soaring prices of basic goods, wage increase, and pay hikes for entry-level teachers.

Mario Andon of the Partido ng mga Mangaggawa urgently called for a wage increase and the establishment of freedom of association for the laborers to exercise their freedom to collective bargaining agreement instead of giving funds to NTF-ELCAC, which only threatened and red-tagged them.

“Ang dapat nila ibutang sa layi amo ang security of tenure sang mamumugon indi isabat ang kontraktwalisasyon” Andon said.

Maximo Montero of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers stressed the government’s lack of attention to teachers’ benefits and called for a salary raise to address this long-standing issue.

Montero added that the downpour in the middle of the protest only goes to show that the “nation is crying because Marcos cannot show any accomplishments to the Filipinos.”

Farmers group Pamanggas representative Melbert Balbon called for the junking of Republic Act 10654 or The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, which according to him only benefits large companies while burdening small-scale fisherfolk.

“Pagpatalang ang layi nga ini (Fisheries Code), nagapakillala lang nga ang interest kag ang magapulos sini amo ang mga dalagko nga kompanya kag ini nagaipit sa magamay nga mangingisda,” he said.

A UP Academic Employees Union-Iloilo Chapter representative expressed concern that the government aims to silence critics to push forward its own agenda.

“All UP Academic Employees Union Iloilo chapter nagaugyon sa padayon nga pagprotekta sa aton nga lamharon nga kinamatarong, pag-abot sang academic freedom, pagtapos sang kontraktwalisasyon, batoan ang pagpalapnag sang sala nga impormasyon,” he noted.

Earlier in the morning, the “No To PUV Phaseout Coalition” also staged a three-day strike in protest of the administration’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) modernization program and Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP).

The strike took place in various locations, including Oton, Tagbak Terminal, Ungka Terminal, and in front of the University of the Philippines-Visayas.

According to Warren Gangoso, president of the coalition, around 80% of jeepney drivers and operators in Iloilo participated on the first day of the strike, which started on Monday.

“Against all odds, napamatud-an ta nga indi kita di 5%. Tani magtatak na ini sa pamunuan nga palihog lang hindi kita magbutig kag maghimo-himo sang numero nga ang tanan nga ini kagustuhan gid sang operators kag kumonidad,” he added.

“Ang ini nga kawsa, para man ini sa inyo,” he added, apologizing to the commuters who endured the long queues and inconvenience at the major terminals due to the strike.

Gangoso also lamented the high costs of modernizing traditional jeepneys, which amounts to over P2 million per unit. He said that he fears the burden of incurring substantial debt over several years given their meager daily earnings.

He added that the coalition does not oppose PUV modernization per se but how the government implements the program.

The coalition also criticized the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-Region 6 (LTFRB-6) for not communicating with them and reaching out on a dialogue on the PUV modernization program on July 18.