The President and his Bosses
While President Benigno Aquino delivers his two-hour long speech inside the House of the Representatives for his last State of the Nation Address, protesters voice their criticism of his administration outside.
The protest is a tradition, an annual piligrimage to Commonwealth Avenue by Aquino's "bosses."
Buena Bernal reports.
According to President Benigno Aquino III, they are the bosses and all of them are competing for his attention in his last year in office.
Indigenous peoples wanting social services. Farmers crying for land redistribution under the Agrarian Reform Law. Pro-workers groups demanding a living wage. And Martial Law victims still awaiting their compensation.
LYDIA CAPONGA, MARTIAL LAW VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: "The soldiers would arrive riding the military vehicle. They would arrest men in the family. So our question to the President: 'When?' Where will they use the money? I hope they uphold our rights as they promised under the compensation law.
A sea of marching protesters along Commonwealth Avenue from across sectors is a yearly sight on the day the president delivers the State of the Nation Address or SONA. This is Aquino's 6th and last SONA.
But not everyone is pleased with this tradition.
Vendors along Commonwealth Avenue who witness the annual demonstration don’t see any point to it.
GLORIA RODRIGUEZ, CORN VENDOR: "Useless. Whatever they cry on the street won't be heard by the President. Only the people watching them hear them. The guy who they want to take notice don't hear their cries. Why? He's inside the House of Representatives."
JUN CINCO, WATER VENDOR: "Nothing would happen in what they're fighting for."
Children are sometimes brought to the mass demonstration – their innocence marred by violence erupting at certain points during the protests.
But for long-time farmer Florina Sibayan, a fixture in the yearly SONA protest, violence is a two-way street.
FLORINA SIBAYAN, HACIENDA LUISITA FARMER: "Only in 2004, the Cojuangco-Aquino family massacred farmworkers. I was one of those shot in 2004. The resentment in our hearts cannot be equalled. The Aquino regime spread something. What? Violence. In 2004, even kids experienced that. They were sprayed with tear gas."
The Luisita Massacre in 2004 killed 7 lives inside the vast agricultural land of a clan the President is part of.
Despite the law and a court order the Hacienda Luisita has yet to be fully redistributed to farmworker-beneficiaries.
For many, the SONA protesters are just dancing to the same old music, singing the same old refrain. But for those who say they’ve been injured by the government, it is their way of telling the world: we exist.
Buena Bernal, Rappler, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City