Various youth groups and campus publications declared their commitment to participate in a massive protest on Monday, July 27, the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Around 60 youth organizations, student councils, and campus publications across the country including Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and Millennials PH will join what has been dubbed as the People’s SONA or “SONA ng mamayan.”
With the theme “SONAgkaisa,” a broad array of political and civil society organizations will stand united through a series of protests on the day of the SONA to denounce the government’s slow response to the coronavirus pandemic and its signing of the controversial anti-terror law which is being challenged before the Supreme Court.
The effort was initiated by the newly-formed Youth Committee, which is comprised of youth groups dedicated to mobilizing the youth and building unity among the youth for the broad-based #SONAgkaisa protests.
Youth Act Now Against Tyranny’s Raoul Manuel said in a press conference that they will stage a separate “State of the Youth Address” on Thursday, July 23, which will serve as an alternative to Duterte’s SONA. It will tackle the problems faced by the Filipino youth and their perspectives on the important issues the nation faces today.
“Gusto nating ‘yung mga kabataan ay sama-samang magma-martsa at dudugtong sa programa kasama pa ang iba pang sectors and groups (We want the youth to march together and join the program with other sectors and groups),” Manuel said.
Youth groups are set to join the program prepared by multi-sectoral groups on the morning of July 27, along Commonwealth Avenue.
The youth groups said they “need to take the fights in the streets,” as they have had enough of the “anti-people” policies of the Duterte administration such as media repression, the enactment of the anti-terrorism law, and the ongoing implementation of distance learning, among other sectoral issues.
“We have witnessed the incompetence of the administration which manifested in different ways…. We can all trace and root these worsening situations from the incompetence of the government,” said University of Santo Tomas Student Council president Dominic Gonzales.
Student councils and youth organizations also criticized the decision of the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education to push through with online classes and their proposed blended-learning approach for the incoming school year.
Calling the arrangement inconsiderate and out-of-touch with the current reality that a majority of Filipino students are facing, they pushed for an academic freeze until the pandemic is under control.
Youth resistance against the ‘terror law’
Youth groups also expressed their commitment to continue opposing the anti-terror law, citing upcoming efforts to challenge it “in the streets” and before the Supreme Court.
Youth-led human rights group KATAPAT also said they will file a separate petition before the SC to challenge the law, saying that they are just waiting for the resumption of physical operations of the High Court this week.
“Sa harap ng malawakang paglabag sa mga kapratang panatao, dapat na nating ibasura ang terror law dahil ito ay paglabag hindi lamang sa Saligang Batas kundi paglabag sa ating mga karapatang pantao, at nang-aagaw ‘di lamang sa kasalukuyan kundi maging ng kinabukasan ng mga kabataan,” said Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.
(In the face of widespread human rights violations, the terror law should be junked because it does not only violate the Constitution but also human rights, and steals the future of our current and future youth.)
The anti-terror law has already faced broad resistance from various groups and individuals even before its implementation. As of writing, 10 petitions have been filed before the High Court.
In his opening remarks at the press briefing, opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the youth to continue fighting for public welfare and the people’s rights.
He said heroes such as Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, and Juan Luna were once students who pushed for reforms in the country during the Spanish colonization.
“Naniniwala ako na ang ating kabataan kapag nanindigan at kumilos, makikita natin ang tunay at ganap na pagbabago. Kaya magkaisa ang estudyante at kabataan, kayo ay isang pwersang kapag kumilos at nanindigan, ay walang ibang resulta, kung hindi tunay na pagbabago.” said Senator Francis Pangilinan.
(I believe that when the youth move and take a stand, we can see true and complete change. That’s why students and the youth should stand united, you are a force that – once you initiate an effort and stand by it – will have no other result but true change.) – with reports from Khaela Vijar/Rappler.com