By: Emme Rose Santiagudo and Glazyl Y. Masculino
CAUSE-oriented groups and religious organizations in Panay and Negros Islands converged on Monday to rally for justice, sovereignty, and democracy and counter President Rodrigo Roa Dutere’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).
According to Elmer P. Forro, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Panay), some 5,000 individuals from cause-oriented groups, religious organization, youth sector, farmers and other sectors of the community joined the United People’s SONA at the Sunburst Park in the City Proper district, Iloilo City.
“We need to stop this tyrannical government especially its persistent harassment, red-tagging, and killings under its war on drugs,” he said in an interview.
The United People’s SONA with its battle cry, “Ipaglaban ang Soberanya, Kabuhayan at Demokrasya!” included a program at the Sunburst Park, talks, and cultural performances which reflected the different concerns of the various sectors of the community.
After the program, the groups marched in front of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol grounds where an effigy of the President was burned.
Siegfred D. Deduro of Makabayan Panay underscored the need to expose the real situation of the various sectors in the community under the administration of Pres. Duterte through the United People’s SONA.
“This is an opportunity for us to join the public discourse and more importantly to expose the lies of the President in his claim that the lives of the masses have improved under his administration,” he said.
The protesters would also be tackling low wages, labor contractualization, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law, and rice tariffication, among others, he added.
Religious groups who also joined the United People’s SONA also denounced the administration for its weak foreign policy especially on issues concerning China.
Rev. Dr. Jerson B. Narciso general secretary of the Convention of the Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) emphasized that the government should defend its territories and the sovereignty of the people.
“We hate to see a government that is too week to defend the sovereignty of the people. The foreign policy of the Duterte administration, which is ‘China above anything else’, is putting our country in a very bad situation. I think we need to send a very strong message to China that they cannot bully us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Very Rev. Marco D. Sulayao of Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) Panay also condemned the Duterte administration for its lack of moral ascendancy through the persistent extra judicial killings (EJK) and harassment against its critics.
As members of the church, he said that it is their duty to defend and uphold the dignity of life.
“The church supported this movement to condemn the government’s persistent killings on its war on drugs, extrajudicial killings, and spread of violence and fear among the public. We need to uphold and defend the dignity of life, because it is sacred. Under the Duterte ‘tyrannical’ administration, this was never observed,” he said.
The mass movement also highlighted the other issues such as, labor contractualization, Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law (TRAIN) Law, rice tariffication, death penalty, and other proposed laws of the Duterte administration.
Aside from religious groups, All UP Academic Employees Union-Iloilo Chapter and National Union of Students of the Philippines also joined the United People’s SONA to specifically condemn the alleged profiling of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the members and faculty of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) and the recent closure of the 55 Lumad schools in Mindanao.
In Bacolod City, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros (Bayan) in Negros Occidental is giving President Rodrigo Duterte a “failing grade”, as they believe that the administration has no genuine reforms implemented in the last three years.
Bayan secretary-general Michael dela Concepcion described him as the “worst performer” in terms of land distribution.
The president’s policies on economic and agriculture development were a failure, he said.
Meanwhile, thousand members of various progressive groups in the province gathered for a protest at the public plaza here yesterday to express their strong opposition to the president during the People’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).
They burned a standee of Duterte dressed in a military uniform with a headband that says China and a rifle, marked with US.
It symbolizes the president as a puppet of these two nations, Dela Concepcion said.