Hamon ng Bayan: Photos and notes from the “People’s SONA”
Article for BlogWatch
More than 8,000 protesters gathered along Commonwealth Avenue this afternoon, presenting issues and demands to the Noynoy Aquino administration as the new president delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
A program was held and leaders from different sectors spoke about the most pressing problems of their sector and the urgent issues the new administration needs to address. Militant partylist representatives also went to the rally before going to Congress.
As PNoy’s convoy passed the rally, they waved their flags and showed their posters and placards. Among the demands:
- Prosecute GMA
- Justice for Human Rights victims
- Genuine Land Reform
- Increase wages
- Stop the Killings
- Junk VFA and JPEPA
- Increase budget for social services
- Resume peace talks
The protesters listened to Aquino’s SONA which was blasted live by the rally sound system.
Immediately after, leaders were asked reactions and Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes addressed the crowd to relay notes on Aquino’s SONA. Among the initial reactions:
- The exposes are good, but what do we do to the perpetrators of these anomalies? Cases should already be filed; primarily against Gloria Arroyo. A concrete suggestion: place individuals responsible under hold departure orders.
- If he really wants to go after the “waste” in government funds, then a review of automatic debt payments should be in order, which amounts to more than 60% of the government budget.
- Public-private partnership, put simply, is further privatization of utilities and other government assets. The same program implemented by past administrations, seen by many as cause of high public utility rates and as a government’s abandonment of its responsibility to provide service.
- On political killings, Aquino announced that 50% of cases have identified suspects. This is good news. But how about the 1,000+ during the past 9 years? More importantly, calls to junk military campaign targeting civilians apparently ignored. This is the more important solution to the problem of extra-judicial killings.
- Despite opposition from youth groups, Aquino mentions his intention to add 2 years to education cycle. If he wants to improve education, this measure which will definitely increase the drop-out rate should not be a priority. He must allot 6% of GDP to education and fix its current state.
- On peace talks with the NDFP: it’s almost as if he is talking war already. Attacks the NDFP for not being helpful and for constantly criticizing (seems he needs to be reminded that they are a revolutionary movement to begin with), and asks for a ceasefire/disarmament before peace talks resume. This is a violation of previous agreements and a call for the other side to surrender, not talk peace based on principles both parties can agree upon.
- No mention of important sovereignty issues, such as much needed repeal of Japanese Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and US-RP Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)
- The people can dream again, Aquino says, but no mention of wage increase, land reform and basic measures to uplift the poor.
Many now ask: if we are to take “daang matuwid” or the “right path” why were some issues crucial to reforming the current system left, so to speak, along “sidewalks”?
I asked a rally organizer who wittingly responded: “Baka diversion road (maybe he took the diversion road).”