by Earl O. Condeza, John Rizle L. Saligumba & Mart D. Sambalud
DAVAO CITY, Philippines– Various groups in Davao staged separate rallies throughout the day of President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address.
Students marched through universities to protest state budget cuts and high cost of education. Workers held a rally in a strike camp to demand job security. Farmers held a picket at a military headquarters to decry militarization and abuses. The rallies culminated with a burning of Pres. Aquino’s effigy in a gathering at the city’s Rizal Park in the afternoon.
The rally was participated by 3,000 people, with some coming as far as Paquibato and Davao Oriental province.
While in Tagum City, some 800 consumers & members of Save Daneco Movement (Sadamo) held a protest in front of Daneco-NEA office at Apokon. The group called to scrap the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) Law and opposed Aquino’s move to privatize the cooperative.
The groups in Davao said Aquino’s fourth SONA offered little to relieve their plight, as they raised complaints of the president’s programs for the past years.
Aquino cited in his 1 hour 40 minute SONA his accomplishments in his first 3 years in office or halfway through his presidency, highlighting reforms in governance and the economy. The reforms, Aquino said, have led to gains for the people such as jobs, food security and education.
But protesters saw it differently.
Labor leader Dodong Basilio from Kilusang Mayo Uno said the number of unemployed in Davao region has risen to 300,073. He also said that companies are hiring workers on a contractual basis, thus preventing workers from forming unions and securing high wages and job security.
Aquino said the country would continue to cut rice importation this year, from two million metric tons in 2010 to 350,000 MT this year. But for Pedro Arnado of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the high cost and hoarding of rice remained a bigger problem.
“Dapat ubos ang presyo, pero ginatagoan nila. Bisan asa nga warehouse sa NFA, nag-awas ang bugas, (They should reduce the prices, but instead they are hoarding the rice. In any warehouse of the NFA (National Food Authority), there’s an overstock of rice.” Arnado told Davao Today.
Urban poor and consumer groups protested against Aquino’s private-public partnership that is targeting public health sector and water utility service.
Ric Navales of Water for People Network said the scheme to privatize Davao City Water District with the entry of the Aboitiz Power Company will only increase water rates.
Mae Ann Sapar of Gabriela decried the corporatization of the Southern Philippine Medical Center, the region’s state hospital. “Who can afford pap smear for mothers and check ups for the sick?” she asked. “With the sellout of hospitals, is Aquino’s tuwid na daan (righteous path) a tuwid na daan sa kamatayan (path to death)?
Elenito Escalante of the teachers group KAMKEM-ACT could hardly believe Aquino’s promise to solve the shortages in public education in his term.
“Where are the 60,000 teachers he will hire for this school year?” asks Escalante, reminding the DepEd’s thrust to find teachers to address the manpower shortage, which is compounded with the additional two years under the K+12 program.
Escalante also belied Aquino’s praise that vocational course graduates from TESDA are now employed. “I see many TESDA graduates here still jobless.”
Students also condemned the state’s budget cuts and higher tuition fees. Perper Cagula of Kabataan Partylist slammed Aquino for slashing the budgets of 50 state colleges and universities nationwide.
Aside from economic problems, the rallyists raised the concern that Aquino failed to discuss human rights.
UCCP Reverend Jurie Jaime, spokesperson of Karapatan said human rights abuses are alarming in Southern Mindanao, with 14 cases of killings recorded in six months this year. Last year Karapatan recorded nine such cases.
Jaime condemned the killing of Cristina Jose, barangay councilor from Baganga, Davao Oriental and leader of Barug Katawhan who was killed last March “at the height of the struggle of typhoon Pablo victims against the Aquino government’s corruption and negligence.”
In Monday’s rally, a Typhoon Pablo survivor, Cristina Lantao, slammed Aquino’s claim that the government helped Pablo victims in rebuilding their homes.
“Si Noynoy wala nagtan-aw sa mga biktima sa Pablo, Nangayo mig pagkaon, wala mi gitagaan (Noynoy hasn’t look at the plight of Pablo victims. We asked for food, but he didn’t give us any),” Lantao said.
For his part, Bayan Muna’s Ariel Casilao wondered what was Aquino’s agenda on peace as negotiations with the National Democratic Front have collapsed. “Does he even have a roadmap to peace and justice?” he asked.
In Tagum, rallyists opposed Aquino’s PPP which is eyeing the privatization of Daneco. Rallyists coming all the way from Montevista, Compostela Valley slammed the Daneco-National Electric Association, which is supported by Aquino, for purchasing expensive power generator sets which they say will be passed on to consumers.
Sadamo spokesperson Rodel Arquiza warned the public that Aquino’s PPP is pro-capitalist and anti-poor.
Doming Montalban, a Daneco consumer, said NEA “serves only rich people unlike the other faction Daneco-CDA where member-consumers can benefit through dividends and patronage refunds.” (Earl O. Condeza, John Rizle L. Saligumba, Mart D. Sambalud/ davaotoday.com/)DANECO, davao, farmers, Human Rights, peasants, SONA, SONA 2013, Sona ng Bayan, workers