MANILA, Philippines- Protests from all over the country and from different sectors of society greeted the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The main issues raised by protesters include the continued destruction of the environment by mining companies, alleged human rights violations, and the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“The same old rhetoric of holding large-scale mining companies accountable is belied by Duterte’s replacement of then-environment secretary Gina Lopez with a pro-mining ex-general, Roy Cimatu,” Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said.
Aside from his special mention of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Duterte also highlighted in his SONA on Monday, July 25, plans on climate change, disaster response, waste disposal, and mining. (READ: SONA 2016: Mixed reactions to Duterte’s environmental plans)
“Duterte should start walking his cheap talk by taking large-scale foreign mining companies to task by upholding the mining closure, suspension and agreement cancelation orders issued by Lopez. These orders have been stuck in the Office of the President, and it only needs the political will of someone who is honestly against the big foreign mines,” Dulce said.
‘Change did not happen’
Indigenous peoples and their advocates also felt President Duterte’s SONA ignored their plight, noting that “change did not happen” a year after Duterte’s first SONA.
“Mining plunder and destruction continues and is business-as-usual especially since Secretary Gina Lopez was replaced by an ex-military general…In the Cordilleras, the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation and Benguet Corporation, despite being suspended for non-compliance with environmental standards, continue to operate,” Cordillera Peoples Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget said.
CPA led a protest action in Baguio City on July 24.
Meanwhile, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) expressed its disappointment over the absence of an agenda for indigenous peoples in SONA 2017.
“Back when he was still a mayor, President Duterte came to the aid of Lumads caught in the crossfire between the military and rebels in Mindanao. As president, he seems to have forgotten the plight of indigenous peoples,” Norly Mercado, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), said.
According to Mercado, they expect Duterte to lead efforts in recognizing indigenous peoples’ ownership of their lands and ancestral domains, and to make sure they participate in the peace talks.
Katutubong Lilak, a collective of women advocates of indigenous women’s rights, also raised their banners that called for the protection of human rights and the promotion of peace in Mindanao.
Former Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis earlier made an emotional appeal before Congress as she recounted alleged human rights abuses by the military as war rages in Marawi City.
About 2,000 protesters from Northern Mindanao trooped to Iligan City to stage a rally in protest of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
Look: PNP Iligan City tried to stop SONA rally of evacuees at plaza yesterday, even arrested 4 Kalinaw Mindanao volunteers. pic.twitter.com/rhFhuInioY— Amirah Ali Lidasan (@AmirahLidasan) July 25, 2017
In Davao City, thousands of farmers and Lumad from various provinces in Southern Mindanao Region gathered to protest against what they called “intensifying state fascism” under the Duterte administration.
“Duterte’s recent extension of martial law is tantamount to (escalating) human rights abuses,” Pedro Arnado of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao, one of the protesters, said in Bisaya.
Members of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, and Mindanao, flocked to Commonwealth Avenue on Monday, July 24, to participate in the huge People’s SONA that also called for the revocation of the martial law in Mindanao, and respect for human rights.
Meanwhile, activists posted photos of the protest on social media using the hashtag #LiftMartialLawNow to amplify their call.
Martial law in Mindanao was recently extended by Congress up to December 31 after the President said it would take more time to quell the conflict in the besieged City of Marawi.
Human rights, on the other hand, has been a sensitive issue under Duterte’s administration as the body count of drug-related killings continues to increase. – with a report from Danielle Nakpil/Rappler.com