Protests in Manila and elsewhere mark SONA

Posted on July 29, 2014

AROUND 7,000 ralliers representing various militant groups demonstrated in front of the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, about a jeepney ride away from Congress where President Benigno S. C. Aquino III made his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon, July 28.

Protesters burn an effigy of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, as he delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 28. -- Reuters
The ralliers staged their own “SONA ng Bayan” and called for Mr. Aquino’s impeachment, primarily in connection with the controversial presidential fund or the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The ralliers numbered some 2,000 early Monday morning, according to Senior Inspector Maricar L.Taqueban of the Quezon City Police Department. There were more protesters by late afternoon.

Ms. Taqueban said around 10,000 policemen were deployed under the Super Task Force Kapayapaan of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

They were augmented by personnel and troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and even the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military fielded about 600 soldiers to augment the police force.

The Philippine Red Cross set up first-aid stalls near the protest area.

Concrete and steel barricades, barbed wires and containers were placed in strategic points far enough from Congress to prevent the ralliers from advancing there.

PNP Public Information Chief Theodore Reuben C. Sindac said the demonstration was “generally peaceful.” But an hour into Mr. Aquino’s SONA, the ralliers tried to break through the barricades, prompting the police to disperse the rally using water cannons. Nobody was reported hurt.

In Western Visayas, an estimated 5,000 protesters gathered at the Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City, Iloilo, to denounce “DAPork King,” as they called Mr. Aquino.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo of Jaro said the Catholic Church here also joined this rally partly to drum up a local concern -- expressing support for vendors opposing the conversion of a public market.

Activist groups in Capiz said 5,000 protesters joined their rally at the Roxas City bandstand.

There was also a protest rally, followed by a prayer vigil, in Bacolod.

In Davao City, various groups staged simultaneous protest actions in front of the regional offices of national agencies to express dismay over continued poverty, joblessness, forced migration, and extrajudicial killings and harassment.

The Barug Katawhan, a group representing victims of typhoon Pablo, staged a protest rally in front of the Social Welfare department office here to demand an explanation on a supposed P10-billion DAP fund for areas affected by the December 2012 calamity.

The KASAKA Agusan and KARAPATAN went to the office of the Commission on Human Rights to protest alleged cases of extrajudicial killings and harassments.

Member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas rallied in front of the Davao office of the Agriculture department.

Gabriela and Kadamay were outside the Trade and Industry department denouncing price increases, and Transmission Piston went to the Land Transportation Office to protest the latest oil price increases.

At the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the Kilusang Mayo Uno called for a wage hike.

Farmers and lumads from the Davao region and elsewhere in Mindanao held a kampuhan (camp) outside the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command to condemn a counterinsurgency program that they branded as “urban militarization.”

A protest rally was also held in front of the Davao City Hall, although Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte has expressed support for the Aquino administration.

Angela Librado, a known activist and barangay chairman of Matina Aplaya, told BusinessWorld the President only cited figures of unrealistic “improvements and developments... none of which are being felt by us.”

In Cagayan de Oro City, members of a coalition led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao Region marched from the Press Freedom Park in front of the capitol grounds to Magsaysay Park, mocking Mr. Aquino’s “Tuwid na Daan” battle cry with placards saying, “Tul-id nga Dalan padulong kamatayan” (straight path to death).

The protesters also denounced what they said was the spate of extrajudicial killings still happening after the Arroyo regime -- notably the killing of peasant leader Julieto Lauron in February.

In General Santos City, some 600 members of Bayan-Socksargen and different church denominations gathered in front of KCC Mall then marched to the city plaza along Pioneer Avenue to denounce the DAP. The ralliers burned a pig-faced effigy of Mr. Aquino. -- Louise G. Dumas, Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Sarwell Q. Meniano, Alden M. Monzon, Louie O. Pacardo, Maya M. Padillo, with additional reports by the Visayas Bureau