Despite threats of arrests and the coronavirus pandemic, sectoral groups across the country came out to protest on Monday, July 27, in time for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
They clamored for the government to prioritize pandemic response and find ways to flatten the curve as COVID-19 cases in the country breached 80,000 as of Sunday, July 26.
They also made calls to human rights abuses, defend press freedom, junk the new Anti-Terrorism Law, push for an inclusive education system, fair transportation, and address livelihood concerns, among others.
They condemned the Duterte administration’s enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law, non-renewal of ABS-CBN franchise, and the continuous violation of human rights, while the pandemic continued to threaten millions of Filipinos.
The protesters were groups of women, students, indigenous peoples, farmers, workers, urban poor, religious, business leaders, and academics.
This year’s mobilizations were different from the previous SONAs as protesters had to observe health protocols, such as wearing of face masks and keeping physical distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in mass gatherings.
Members of over 60 youth organizations and multi-sectoral organizations flocked to University Avenue at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. (READ: #SONAgkaisa: Despite pandemic, Filipinos protest ‘worsened’ hardships in Duterte’s 4th year)
In calling attention to the people’s worsening struggles in Duterte’s 4 years in office, protesters mixed dissent with art and humor. Some attended the protest in cosplay attire. Others brought improvised props.
A day after the announcement was made, the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the police clarified that SONA protests and rallies would still be allowed inside the campuses of the University of the Philippines (UP).
This was because of the 1989 Enrile-Soto accord, which prohibits cops and soldiers from operating in any UP campus.
Protesters who staged a mobilization at the Plaza Hernandez in Tondo, Manila urged the government to conduct free mass testing and to provide assistance and livelihood to millions of Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Police warned them that they would be arrested if they continued their activity. The demonstrators dispersed peacefully after Duterte ended his SONA in the late afternoon.
The anti-Duterte protests were not confined in Metro Manila.
Outside the Baguio Cathedral, protesters called on the government to respect the rights of indigenous people, following instances of the authorities red-tagging them, including United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz from the Kankana-ey tribe.
Hours before Duterte delivers his 5th SONA, progressive groups from Calabarzon took their calls against the government to the streets of Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Sectoral groups in Laguna join the SONA protest at the Carabao Park inside the University of the Philippines Los Baños. They slammed the police for arresting at least 64 protesters in Carmona, Cavite, who were supposed to join the rally.
Residents of urban poor communities in Angeles City, Pampanga, join the #SONAgKAISA protest. They demanded that the government be held accountable for neglecting them.
Various groups gathered at the Bacolod Public Plaza and held their own SONA ng BAYAN, joining the #SONAgKAISA nationwide. protest.
Groups joined the simultaneous #WakaSONA protests organized in Cebu City.
In the municipality of Aloguinsan, police dispersed protesters from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Cebu who were performing a cultural presentation. The interruption was caught live on the BAYAN Central Visayas Facebook page.
In an interview with Rappler, Police Staff Sergeant Marvin Hubahib of the Aloguinsan Municipal Police Office clarified that no arrests were made after the dispersal.
“Wala ma’y na-aresto ganiha. Amo ra tong gipamadlong, among disperse (No one was arrested earlier. We just warned them, we dispersed them),” he said, unable to cite a specific violation conducted by the farmers’ group that called for police intervention.
Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) chief Colonel Roderick Mariano said he had yet to receive reports of the dispersal, but added that the protesters should be dispersed if they mobilized without permits.
“Wala pang report sa akin. Kasi, if they have no permit, I think dapat talaga i-disperse sila,” he said. (I have received no reports yet. If they have no permit, I think it’s right to disperse them.)
Other sectoral groups gathered in front of the ABS-CBN Region 7 compound in Jagobiao, Mandaue City.
– with reports from Loreta Arroyo and Lorraine Ecarma/Rappler.com