MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Notwithstanding the threat of a downpour, thousands of protesters on Monday, July 23, occupied a major portion of Commonwealth Avenue – the road leading to the House of Representatives in Quezon City – to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s 3rd State of Nation Address.
As of 5 pm, National Capital Region Police Office estimated that at least 8,000 anti-Duterte protesters converged along Commonwealth Avenue, while at least 7,000 supporters of the President gathered along the IBP road.
Different opposition forces – calling their activity the “United People’s SONA” – converged to condemn the government’s alleged plans to convene Congress into a constituent assembly for charter change. They explained that Duterte’s 3rd SONA would not reflect the true state of the country. (READ: #StoryOfTheNation: What do you want to hear in SONA 2018?)
The protesters came from various groups of women, students, indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, urban poor, religious groups, business leaders, and academics.
“Hindi totoong walang achievement si Pangulong Duterte. Katunayan, nagawa niyang pagkaisahin ang iba’t ibang grupo at malawak na mamamayan laban sa tiraniya, cha-cha, at diktadura,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
(It is not true that President Duterte achieved nothing. In fact, he was able to unite different groups and the public to fight against tyranny, charter change, and dictatorship.)
Below are some photos from the protests staged by various anti-Duterte groups in Metro Manila:
The anti-Duterte protests were not confined within Metro Manila.
In Baguio City, a group of militants took to the streets, claiming that Duterte failed to fulfill the promises he made to the Filipino people.
In Bacolod City, various groups staged the “Bagting contra Cha-Cha,” or ringing of the bells against charter change, hours prior to Duterte’s SONA.
Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela, co-convenor of Paghimud-os Negros, said charter change presents two problems.
“One, it provides opportunities for the insertion of dangerous or self-serving provisions while distracting us from addressing our more urgent problems; second, it is meant to enable a permanent, virtually non-reversible shift to federalism, a system we are not ready for, and one that actually proposes more government and not less,” he said.
In Tacloban City, activists organized their version of the People’s SONA.
In Cagayan de Oro City, activists gave the President a grade of zero for his performance.
Father Roland Abejo of the Iglesia Filipina Independente Clergy called Duterte the devil for supposedly waging a war against the poor. According to Abejo, Duterte fooled the country as he projected himself during the 2016 national elections as a candidate who came from the masses.
“He promised to elevate the quality of life of the masses, but now he is giving us hell with the Train Law,” Abejo said, referring to the package of tax reforms that increased the prices of some products and services.
– with reports from Bobby Lagsa, Marchel Espina, Mau Victa, and Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler.com