40K people protest vs President Duterte’s SONA
The protest was the biggest so far during the two years of Duterte’s presidency as public satisfaction with Duterte’s administration continues to drop amidst various issues hounding him.
Staff members and target groups of the Kiyo, Solidagro and TWHA consortium and ASTM partner organizations were among the more than 40,000 people who took to the streets in Manila to protest as the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Billed as the United People’s SONA, the protest is a historic moment as it united more than 300 organizations from various sectors and political groups, even those that were in the past at opposing ends of the political spectrum, that have been confronting and opposing the Duterte administration’s ploy to impose authoritarian rule in the country.
The protest was the biggest so far during the two years of Duterte’s presidency as public satisfaction with Duterte’s administration continues to drop amidst various issues hounding him. It was also the biggest SONA protest of all the recent presidents.
United People’s SONA
The United People’s SONA aimed to present the true state of the nation in the time of Duterte and call him to account for the worsening human rights situation and impunity, mass poverty, soaring prices of commodities, his failure to end labor contractualization, persisting corruption in the government, and the persecution of human rights workers, women, and indigenous peoples defending their lands from big mining companies and plantations, among others.
It was also aimed to show the broadening opposition forces against the Duterte administration’s moves to change the current constitution towards concentrating power in the President and imposing an authoritarian rule under the guise of a shift to a federal system of government through the aid of the incumbent lawmakers who are also lusting for term extension.
Attacks vs rights defenders
During the SONA, Duterte, without much to say about his accomplishments, again lambasted human rights advocates to defend his deadly war on drugs campaign:
“This is why the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began...
Sadly, I have yet to hear really howls of protest from the human rights advocates and church leaders against drug-lordism, drug dealing and drug pushing as forceful and vociferous as the ones directed against the alleged errant law enforcers in the fight against this social scourge.
If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of your demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong.
Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.”
Human rights defenders are not about to take the accusation sitting down.
“Duterte’s take on human rights vis-à-vis human lives just emphasized how oblivious he is on the subject. This is expected from someone infamous for rights violations and for enabling more butchers in the police and military. It baffles us how someone who backed and directed the killing of thousands of Filipinos can muster the audacity to claim that he’s fighting for human lives. He’s utterly shameless,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay
Consortium partners said that aside from the impacts of Duterte's drug war, numerous issues were not addressed in Duterte's SONA such as the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines which will address the root causes of problems in the country, rights violations in relation to martial law in Mindanao, the spate of illegal arrests and growing number of political prisoners, and the vicious attacks against human rights defenders.
“We will continue to protest, to add our voices to the growing clamor for justice and substantial change. There is growing outrage and discontent over the anti-people policies of the Duterte government. His false promises are slowly being exposed, and his administration gradually being isolated. We will not allow their petty tricks to cloud the reality on the ground; we will courageously stand together to demand justice and accountability,” #
Just a few days after the SONA, four former partylist lawmakers belonging to the the Makabayan block, one of whom is a current Cabinet Secretary were issued warrants of arrest for murder charges filed against them in 2006. The warrants were issued against former Bayan Muna representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño, former Gabriela partylist representative and National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, and former Anakpawis representative and former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano.
Rights groups said that the resurrected case against the four were based on lies blaming political persecution as the real reason behind the threat.