PNoy's scorching walk to his SONA
MANILA, Philippines – Under scorching heat, he traversed the Philippines' so-called killer highway for about 30 minutes to approach the venue of his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23.
President Benigno Aquino III – his effigy, that is – arrived near the Philippine Congress in Quezon City past noon, 3 hours before the President's annual report on the country's progress. Hundreds of protesters marched with the effigy along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, putting the President under fire for his supposed inaction on uplifting the poor.
Policemen, however, blocked them a few kilometers from Congress.
For protesters, Aquino is Two-Face, a villain in Batman movies. “Having two faces means being deceptive. That is what this government has excelled in the past two years,” said the Crisanto de Leon, chair of Ugatlahi, the group that made the effigy.
His effigy has two sides: one that represents Aquino the “charming suitor,” and another that shows his “hideous scars and rotten flesh.”
Protesters said Aquino, as a suitor, charms his way through programs like public-private partnerships (PPPs) and conditional cash transfer (CCT).
“Though Aquino claims these projects will alleviate the hardships of the poor, the number of families below the poverty line continues to increase at an alarming rate under his administration,” Ugatlahi said.
His nasty side, protesters said, comes from the United States' increased intervention in Philippine affairs. “Aquino has used the tension with China to justify the ever-increasing military presence and intervention of the US in the Philippines,” said activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
Protesters also criticized Aquino for a supposed rise in human rights violations during his term, as well as his mining policy. He recently imposed a moratorium on new mining contracts.
Church in rally, too
Filipinos trooped to the rally with various other concerns in mind.
In an interview with Rappler, a representative of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community said Aquino should prioritize bills on LGBT rights. Rev Ceejay Agbayani, member of the Metropolitan Community Church, said Aquino should, in particular, push for the Anti-Discrimination Bill that has been pending in Congress for 11 years.
“Bigyan kami ng proteksyon sa pamamagitan ng pagpasa ng batas na 'yon,” Agbayani said. (Give us protection by passing this bill.)
Some 40 Franciscan seminarians, members of a Catholic order, also attended the rally. The seminarians said they are not particularly against Aquino, but are supporting the poor. They said they sympathize with the poor when it comes to human rights violations and rising prices of basic goods, for example.
“The Church is supposed to be a prophet – announcing, denouncing; announcing the Good News, denouncing the ills of society,” Franciscan seminarian Bro Adam Galac said in Filipino.
The rally is generally peaceful as of posting time. Tension erupted between protesters and policemen occasionally, however, over barricades to prevent the rally from getting close to the Philippine congress. – with reports from Nathan Gatpandan/Rappler.com
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