ILOILO City – Panayanons on Monday, July 22, joined the entire Filipino nation in a United People’s SONA 2019 in time of President Rodrigo Duterte’s 4th state of the nation address.

Farmers, workers, fisherfolks, urban poor, women, vendors, indigenous Tumandok, drivers and transport groups, teachers and students, the youth and the church people flooded the streets of Kalibo in Aklan, San Jose in Antique, Roxas City in Capiz and Iloilo City to protest the continuing tyrannical rule of Duterte.

Progressive groups and religious organizations flock at the Iloilo City Sunburst Park to express dissidence over the tyrannical rule of the Duterte administration

Protesters came bearing placards, banners, flags, and a green monster effigy of Rodrigo Duterte atop a train with torn wings representing China and U.S. Personalities present voice out the struggles and concerns of their respective sectors in the program that they called the ‘United Peoples SONA’ which, in contrast to that of Duterte’s, reflects the realities of the Philippine society where human rights violations are rampant and majority of the population are struggling with poverty and hunger.

The protesters featured street art and placards that were centered on the issue of sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and the administration’s lack of action over China’s aggression over our territory. Placards were designed with sea shells and corals to depict China destroying giant clams and other marine resources in what is considered as our territorial waters. Signages were also made in the shape of rows to call attention to the fishermen who were involved in the ramming incident by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank.

Other protest materials also called to end all extrajudicial killings, rally support for farmers and workers, as well as to end all forms of human rights violations and abuses that contribute to the worsening culture of impunity in our country.

Cultural performances such as songs, spoken word, and interpretative dances that depicted the struggles of the different sectors were also presented during the program.

Culture of impunity
Various religious groups and human rights advocates speak about the increasing cases of human rights violations especially in Panay.

“No one has the right to take the life of his fellowmen. Cases of extrajudicial killings have increased in number all due to the tyranny of the Duterte regime,” said Reylan Vergara, secretary general of Panay Alliance Karapatan. Just recently, Vergara was tailed by two unidentified men. Another leader activist from the urban poor sector was a victim of attempted assassination by two state agents.

“The administration is the top violator of human rights, evident in its efforts to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 13 years old as well as its revival of the death penalty,” Vergara continued.

Very Rev. Marco Sulayao of Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said, “There are over 30,000 victims of extrajudicial killings. How many of them are innocent? How many of them are being reduced to just ‘collateral damage’ in Duterte’s bogus war on drugs”.

“The government even promised to resume the peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF. But instead, it has launched numerous attacks and abuses against the Filipino people,” the church leader added.

The groups urge everyone to continue to resist all forms of attacks and to remain vigilant given the political climate of the country where critics are being silenced and gunned down.

Support our farmers
Farmers from different municipalities of Panay who were victims of El Niño express grievances over the government’s lack of action despite their continuous demands for rice and seed subsidy.

Nay Lucia Capaducio, chairperson of Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (PAMANGGAS) said, “We have long demanded for subsidy from the provincial government but they continue to ignore our needs. We had a petition signing last March and even had a picket-dialogue last April.”

“We ask for seeds but we are given jetmatic pumps. We ask for food but we are given liquid fertilizer. Will these things solve our hunger?” Capaducio added.

Farmers staged a 5-day campout at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol to continue to demand support and subsidy from the government. Capaducio urged everyone to join their protest action and to continue to support the struggle of farmers.

Oust Duterte
Issues concerning the country’s sovereignty and the West Philippine Sea were raised by several personalities from various sectors during the program.

“Duterte does not uphold any independent foreign policy as he continues to bootlick both U.S and China. He is a traitor to the country’s sovereignty and the constitution,” said Elmer Forro of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Panay.

“Duterte’s lack of action over the issues concerning the country’s territory in West Philippine Sea are grounds for his ouster,” Forro added.

Suppression of rights
Various groups also cite different instances proving the government’s lack of concern for the people.

The All U.P Academic Employees Union Iloilo condemned the administration’s desperate attempts of the Philippine National Police to collect information regarding the union members without stating any legitimate reason for doing so.

The National Union of Students of the Philippines Panay also condemned the continuing attacks on the youth as the Duterte regime continues to forward anti-student policies such as mandatory drug testing and mandatory ROTC. The group also slams the Department of Education’s decision to suspend 55 Lumad Schools, violating the students’ right to education and academic freedom.

Siegfred Deduro of Movement Against Tyranny Panay said, “Dictators have a bad habit of oversimplifying things. Hitler says that problems are all because of the Jews. Duterte says that problems are all due to drugs. Three years into his term, we see that this is not true. If it were, why is poverty and hunger still prevalent despite his declarations that drug use in the country has lessened?”

“All of the things that we have mentioned are enough to conclude that Duterte is unfit to represent the country and must be ousted for his crimes against the people,” Deduro ended.

Boracay closure
Particular in Aklan, Bayan Aklan said that the people are still experiencing the impact of the six-month Boracay closure due to the autocratic and militarist orders of fascist Duterte in the guise of environmental rehabilitation last April 26, 2018.

Akeanons suffered from poor health services due to lack of funds of hospitals in the province, and now the wrath of dengue outbreak.

“Military out of our lands, now!”
Farmers in Capiz condemned the continuing militarization in their lands. Farmers in Cuartero were particularly threatened and intimidated by local officials and were forced to surrender as members of the New People’s Army.

In Tapaz, military operations hinder the economic activities of the Tumandoks because of projects which the military are protecting.

“The military should leave us at once. Our dire situation continue to worsen due to series of military operations. We are being haunted as if its Martial law as they protect their anti-people projects like the mega dams to be situated on our lands. And our people are being intimidated to agree with these projects that will surely take away our lands and our lives,” said Roy Giganto, chairperson of the Tumandoks.

Police blockade
In Antique, Sibalom PNP blocked a group of farmers joining the mobilization in center San Jose. About a hundred farmers were made to wait and were released just as the PNP thought they have delayed them for the rally program.

The Church-Peasant Solidarity Network condemned the act of the PNP.

Makibaka, wag Matakot!
The program in Iloilo ended with a community singing of “Makibaka Wag Matakot” where representatives of the groups waved their flags to show unity as they resist all forms of tyranny and fascism perpetuated by the Duterte regime.

Over 2,500 protesters then marched to the Iloilo Provincial Capitol where they burned the Duterte effigy while chanting “Imperyalismo, Ibagsak!” and “Atin Ang Pinas, China Layas!” Over-all, a total of about 5,000 Panayanons joined the mobilizations on Monday.

This also signaled the start of the 5-day campout of farmers in the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo to protest the government’s negligence and inaction after promising support to farmers who were affected by El Niño./


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