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MANILA, Philippines—The gloomy weather and occasional rain failed to drown the spirits of impassioned protesters on Monday afternoon, who marched along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City to express their dissatisfaction toward the Aquino government.
But it’s a smaller protest crowd than in previous SONAs.
Despite the absence of a permit, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), who leads thousands of demonstrators during the SONA every year, assembled on stage to speak about issues they would like the government to tackle.
They raised concern over rising unemployment, high prices, poverty, alleged human rights violations and subservience to foreign dictates. In addition, BAYAN wants justice for the victims of the previous Arroyo administration.
“Pinapanawagan rin naming ipakulong si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo bagamat ni isang kaso wala pang isinasampa itong adminstrasyon na ito (We are also calling for the imprisonment of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo although not one case has been filed against her by the current administration),” said BAYAN secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.
Also present were government representatives who joined the demonstrators to voice their disappointments and hopes for the Aquino presidency.
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative Luzviminda Ilagan chided President Aquino for failing to deliver on his promise to lead the nation through a clearer path. “Yung matuwid na daan na pinagyayabang niya, mukhang walang pagtutunguan (The clear path that he has been boasting about doesn’t look like its headed anywhere),” she said.
“Hindi lang puro salita, masmahalaga aksyon para sa taong bayan (He should stop with all the talk, what’s more important is action for the people).”
Meanwhile, Rep. Antonio L. Tino of the ACT Teachers party list, expressed the hope that President Aquino resolve the land reform issue for the farmers of Hacienda Luisita. He also expressed the need for “unconditional, general amnesty for political prisoners, an end to impunity and the continuing political killings.”
His sentiment was backed by Hustisya, an organization of victims of human rights violations and their families, which claims that there still has been no justice for extrajudicial killings under the current administration.
“Nais naming marinig, diretso, kay pangulong Aquino na ititigil na ang pamamaslang, ititigil na ang sapilitang pagkawala at palalayain na ang lahat ng bilanggong pulitiko(We want to hear, straight from President Aquino, that he will stop the killings, stop people from missing, and that he will free all political prisoners,” said Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary-general.
Ahead of the pack of protesters, a large effigy of President Aquino by artists of Ugatlahiloomed. The effigy was of a penoy, symbolizing what demonstrators call his inutility during his first year in power. The effigy took one week to complete, said artist Crisanto De Leon, and was finished early morning Monday.
While most protests expressed specific disappointment toward President Aquino, there were those who have actively taken part in rallies annually.
Benjamin Santos Jr. of the All UP Workers Union, who has been joining street calls for change for a decade, said that there has not been much improvement.
“Pa iba-iba ang adminstrasyon, pare-parehas pa rin ang problema, parang wala pa rin talagang pagbabago (The administration keeps changing, but the problems remain the same, as if there has not been any changes),” he said.
As expected, the National Police surrounded the area in protective gear and firearms. As of 2 p.m., there was not an available crowd estimate, although Police Supt. Datu Mama Mokalid Alhadj said the crowd was relatively small this year, estimating the number to be a little over a thousand.
He also said that so far, the SONA protests were generally peaceful.—Newsbreak