CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Progressive groups civil society, and church-related organizations joined forces in nationwide protest actions in time for Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, July 23.
In Northern Mindanao, one of the calls of the protesters was an end to martial law in Mindanao and the mounting oppression of the country’s poor and indigenous peoples.
“Over one year of militaristic rule has passed, but its so-called objectives of peace and order in reality are death and destruction of communities – both Lumad and Moro alike,” said Vennel Chenfoo, of the Kabataan party-list.
Kabataan and other progressive collectives have described the Duterte administration as “anti-people” with “anti-poor” policies, such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law, Oplan Tokhang, Oplan Kapayapaan, and the recent anti-“tambay” crackdown.
About 300 protesters from all over the region have massed at the Magsaysay Park here on Monday.
Deacon Allan Khen Apus, of Karapatan-Northern Mindanao, said “even civilians have no right under martial law.”
For Rev. Fr. Rolando Abejo, convenor of Movement Against Tyranny in the region, said Duterte’s second year as president is besmeared “with the scent of blood and terror that reigns with the administration’s rising tyranny and dictatorship that continues to oppress the masses through his various policies.
Abejo said Duterte “bears his fangs against the Filipino people while [wagging his] tail for the People’s Republic of China and the Imperialist US. He would allow political, economic, and military incursions from US and China but kills his people for standing up and calling for their basic rights.”
He said the administration continues to attack and vilify his vocal critics, including the church and other institutions, but has chosen to keep mum on the state of the country’s worsening economic situation.
“Clearly, the President flexes his macho strongman will against those who are unable to defend themselves, the poor and the downtrodden. Civilians were forced to surrender at the pretense of being invited by the AFP in their detachments. Some went missing for days and surfaced with apparent mental trauma. Some were detained through trumped-up charges,” Abejo added.
Ophelia Tabacon, chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Northern Mindanao, said they are dismayed by Duterte’s failure to deliver on his promise of change, most especially the increase of educators’ wages.
Echoing the sentiment of ACT national secretary-general Raymond Basilio, Tabacon said their meager salaries could not cope with the increase of prices in basic commodities.
Ringo Lago, regional chairperson of the Solidarity of Transport Alliance in Region X-Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Starex-Piston), said the transport sector was expecting Duterte to deliver what he had promised during the campaign, but found themselves disappointed by what he actually did when he assumed office.
“The transport-related policies that we opposed during the past administration actually worsened, particularly the PUV [public utility vehicle] modernization, which we would like to call as ‘murdernization’ of the livelihood of small-time operators and drivers all over the country,” Lago said. (davaotoday.com)