#SONA2013: Youth groups disappointed
MANILA, Philippines - Different youth organizations expressed their discontent with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.
In a statement issued on July 23, Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said that the President’s “silence on pressing issues, haciendero arrogance and narcissistic self-promotion” — and not his speech — reflected the situation of the people.
“There is not a single mention of the various hikes that have affected or will affect the Filipino people in the past few weeks and in the coming days,” he added.
Crisostomo cited price increases in Metro Manila water bills, fuel, LRT-MRT fares, and tuition fees, among others.
The group also expressed disappointment in Aquino’s failure to present plans that will address human rights violations, the renewal of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the protection of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Put together, the deafening silence of Aquino on urgent concerns of the people shows that he and his administration have no framework or 'master plan' in improving the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” Crisostomo said.
Abuses on SONA protests
Crisostomo was angered by the violence that erupted between protesters and police in the anti-SONA protests.
Anakabayan said that 8 youth protesters were arrested by the Philippine National Police (PNP) who tried to break the protesters’ ranks.
“Video footage clearly shows that negotiations were ongoing between activist leaders and police representatives when the cops suddenly began hitting unarmed protesters,” Crisostomo said.
Crisostomo maintained that what happened in the protests shows that the Aquino administration does not respect the human rights of those who do not believe in his speeches and propaganda.
“It is also consistent with Aquino’s dismal human rights record where the number of political prisoners and activists jailed on account of trumped-up charges is on the rise,” he added.
Silence on FOI
The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), a nationwide alliance of 122 youth and student groups lobbying for the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, was also disappointed that FOI was not mentioned in the President’s SONA.
FYI national convener Allan Pangilinan said the FOI bill should be the Aquino administration’s priority.
“We cannot be fully aware of the true state of the nation without freedom of information...The FOI should be the centerpiece of the platform of an administration that continuously calls for accountability among its officials,” Pangilinan said.
Nic Angeles of the UP Diliman College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (UP-CSSP) said the FOI is key to Aquino’s matuwid na daan.
“In order for citizens to be partners in the Aquino administration’s ‘daang matuwid,' it is imperative that we are empowered by a law that institutionalizes transparency in public offices,” Angeles said.
FYI plans to intensify its lobbying efforts in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“With or without the FOI in the SONA, we will remain steadfast in our campaign for the enactment of this important piece of legislation,” Angeles said.
Pangilinan said that FYI hopes to get more legislators to support their position.
FYI hopes to engage the new chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Information (CPI). The House is expected to announce its new committee chairpersons within the week.
FYI hopes the bill will be passed in the 16th Congress.
“While we still hope that the President realizes the need for the FOI Law to ensure broader citizens’ participation in governance and development, we don’t have the luxury of time to wait, especially in light of recent issues involving public funds allegedly being spent on bogus organizations,” Angeles said. - Rappler.com