UNLIKE last year, leftist groups are set to mount huge protests as President Rodrigo Duterte goes to Congress for the annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.
“Tomorrow’s Sona will be a time of reckoning for the people,” Antonio Flores, the leader of a leftist farmers organization said Sunday. “We must be united in opposing martial law.”
Flores, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, referred to Saturday’s decision by Congress to approve an extension of martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year in line with Duterte’s request.
“Duterte’s strongman posturing will bear no good for the country as he is not addressing the most basic social concerns like land reform, employment and enactment of pro-people policies. His Sona tomorrow will turn out just like his promises—all empty talk and with no significant value to the people,” Flores said.
Thousands of workers belonging to Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pialipino, Sanlakas and Partido Lakas ng Masa will hold protest actions on Monday.
Protests will also be held simultaneously at 11 a.m. at the Bureau of Internal Revenue on Agham Road, the National Housing Authority on Elliptical Road and the Department of Natural Resources along Visayas Avenue before demonstrators march towards the Batasan Pambansa complex where the SONA will be delivered.
The groups are expected to merge at 1 p.m. in front of the the Iglesia ni Cristo church in Litex along Commonwealth Avenue, then march towards the north gate of the Batasan Pambansa where they will hold a program.
Similar protests are set to be held in Bacolod, Tacloban, Cebu and Davao.
The mood among leftist groups is a sharp departure from last year’s Sona, when they rallied in support of Duterte, who had included leftists in his Cabinet, and used his address to announce the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels.
The talks have since collapsed, and now leftist groups insist that Duterte’s first year in office has not benefitted the poor.
They said in the last year, there were 68 victims of politically motivated killings, most of them farmers.
During the first 60-day period of martial law, they added, there were 10 victims of extrajudicial killings, 335 victims of illegal arrest and close to half a million people displaced by airstrikes in Marawi, where Islamic State-inspired terrorists overran the city.
On the eve of Duterte’s second Sona, thousands of farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao were expected to gather at the Department of Agrarian Reform to present the national situation of farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples and rural people under the Duterte regime.
The farmers will deliver the State of Peasantry Address to deplore the absence of land reform and the continuing injustices and atrocities under Duterte.
“No real change happened except for the rising death toll under the current government.” Flores said.
“The current DAR have distributed 56,000 hectares of land in a year, but much more remain in the control of big landlords. We are taking action to realize our demand for genuine land reform and dismantling of land monopolies and haciendas,” Flores added.
The multi-billion-peso coco levy fund, he said, has not been returned to small coconut farmers and their heirs. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
“There are even maneuvers to privatize and utilize the coco levy fund for other purposes. Irrigation services are free on paper but not on the ground. The peace negotiation is stalled. Our repeated demands have fallen on deaf ears,” Flores said.
The farmers also condemned the extension of martial law.
“The dictator and bully President Duterte and his military cabal led by war dogs General [Delfin] Lorenzana, [Hermogenes] Esperon and [Eduardo] Año are misleading the nation by lying about the grave state-sponsored human rights violations in Mindanao. The President’s rubber-stamp supermajority bloc in Congress has betrayed the people by unanimously endorsing the extension of martial law. They are all accomplices in opening the floodgates for more abuses, death, and prolonged humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, said Danilo Ramos, chairman of KMP.
Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said stricter security measures are up for Duterte’s second Sona, after several attacks by communist rebels and the collapse of peace talks.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Albayalde said 6,300 policemen and 300 soldiers will be deployed to secure the Sona, more than last year’s 4000-strong contingent, said Albayalde.
Protesters will be allowed at the corner of Batasan and Sinagtala roads, about 900 meters away from the Batasan Pambansa where Duterte will deliver his Sona.
More than 27,000 Duterte supporters, on the other hand, are expected to converge in front of the Civil Service Commission, about 1.2 kilometers away from the anti-government protesters.
Albayalde said policemen assigned to Sona duty will not carry shields, batons or firearms.
Duterte critic Senator Leila de Lima said the President’s second Sona would be “fake news.”
“Like the fake news his supporters have continued to spread, De Lima only expects fake achievements from Duterte in his second Sona, such as her arrest on trumped-up drug charges,” said De Lima.
The detained senator said she expects nothing but lies and a litany justifying the extrajudicial killings, even as Duterte has gone beyond his self-imposed deadline of three to six months for eradicating crime. With Macon Ramos-Araneta