SONA FEATURE: Thousands join ‘People’s SONA’, ‘zero’ concrete reforms in official SONA
Thousands marched along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City yesterday in what was dubbed a ‘SONA ng Bayan’ (People’s State of the Nation Address) as a counter-point to the official, and first-ever, State of the Nation Address speech by President Noynoy Aquino. Led by the umbrella group BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance), the marchers came from the ranks of workers, students, youths, urban poor, migrants’ families, teachers, government employees, health workers, indigenous peoples, environmentalists, scientists, and artists. People from the nearby regions of Southern Tagalog (Region IV) and Central Luzon (Region III) also joined the rally.
In the rally program, representatives of the various organizations discussed the situations of their respective sectors, as well as the reforms needed to address those problems.
BAYAN summarized these situations in a statement, and enumerated some of the most urgently-needed reforms:
1. Prosecute Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her henchmen for their crimes.
2. Immediately address the problems of joblessness and poverty.
3. Increase wages and provide other forms of economic relief for the people
4. Increase the budget for social services.
5. Implement genuine land reform.
6. Stop extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, and end the OBL.
7. Uphold national sovereignty, abrogate the VFA and scrap the GATT and the JPEPA.
Aquino’s first-ever SONA (transcript is available here) disappointed many sectors who lamented the lack of concrete proposals in addressing their problems.
Peasant groups KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) and Kasama-TK (Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan) bewailed the fact that there was literally no mention of the phrase reporma sa lupa (land reform), a basic reform needed in the still-agriculturally-backward Philippines.
In a statement, KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said
“This is really new or this is the ‘pagbabago’ Aquino is talking about, ridding off land reform as a legitimate issue and agenda, escaping from the centuries-old problem of landlessness and ‘iwas-pusoy’ on the issue of Hacienda Luisita and other haciendas controlled by rich and powerful landlords
Youth groups, which had recently organized a nationwide class walkout to push for education reforms, assailed Aquino’s silence on their demands.
Terry Ridon of the League of Filipino Students branded the SONA as a ‘State of the Negosyo (Business) Address‘, in reference to Aquino’s proposal to worsen the privatization of the education sector.
The group also criticized Aquino’s plan to add 2 more school years in the country’s basic education cycle as a ‘quantity, not quality’ approach to the problem.
Outside of the contents of his speech, left-leaning lawmakers criticized Aquino’s ‘excessive display of force’ in using the police to intimidate the rally participants. For the task of supposedly securing the SONA’s venue, 10,000 cops were deployed, the same number deployed by disgraced former president Gloria Arroyo to protect her during the height of attempts to oust her from power.
Teddy Casiño of the partylist group Bayan Muna said
The excessive security measures for this year’s SONA send the message that is totally contradictory to President Aquino’s declaration of ‘Kayo ang boss ko’ (You are my boss)
Previously, youth group Anakbayan criticized the move as part of a series of actions by the new administration which ‘hints at its true colors’.
This militaristic attitude of the new president stained his speech and did not go unnoticed.
Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, the chief political consultant of the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) Negotiating Panel said
Aquino was actually shutting the door to peace negotiations by preconditioning the formal talks with his “malawakang tigil-putok” bago mag-usap
He also spelled out two suggestions to Aquino in ensuring that the peace talks between the Government and the NDFP can resume.
Finally, Anakbayan said the July 26 SONA meant something else other than ‘State of the Nation Address’. In a statement, Anakbayan national vice-chairperson Anton Dulce called it a ‘State of No Addressing of problems’, in reference to the common observation of many sectors and groups that Aquino’s first-ever address is totally bereft of concrete proposals in solving the myriad of Philippine social problems.