Philippines SONA Rally 2013
Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, People Power Media & The Real News Network: Thousands of people took to the streets when the President of the Philippines delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address. They decry the President’s failure to address the widespread poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.
I’m here at the People’s State of the Nation March against President Benigno Aquino III in Manila, Philippines. They’re saying that within the three years that he’s taken office. There has been no change.
The protestors marched along one side of Commonwealth Ave, a 15-lane wide highway that leads towards the site of the President’s speech at the Batasan Complex, home to the House of Representatives. Some protestors toppled a section of the razor wire fence put up to divide the street.
The procession began to pour onto the other side of Commonwealth Avenue. In an attempt to bypass the barricades set up to prevent the march from getting close to the President. They rushed into oncoming traffic and soon went head-to-head with a line of police.
The march is now stopped at Commonwealth Avenue where there’s a standoff between the police and the protestors. This part was initially blocked off for cars, and now they’re trying to go through. There’s been- there’s probably about 40 deep on that side of police, and this side, the protest march, is the entire procession of the march and they’re waiting to see now what will happen between the march and the police.
It wasn’t long after that the police sent reinforcements. They blocked off the road with a line of trucks and a hose was ready as they advanced on the protestors.
The Chairperson of an international advocacy group for Filipino migrants was among those hurt in the confrontation with police.
Garry Martinez, Chairperson, Migrante International: During the negotiations, we are still waiting for the result when the police moved and tried to arrest me. While they are holding my hands, some of the policemen hit me in the back with their shields and truncheons. That is very painful and very violent dispersal. Because that was the agreement, we are waiting for the result of the negotiation, but in a matter of a few minutes, the police moved and hitting our people.
Ruiz: Martinez wasn’t the only person we saw hurt. Many peasant leaders in the front lines were struck by truncheons or crushed in the advance. Just before the march, we interviewed the Director of the National Capitol Region Police. He said that despite not having a permit, the police are allowing the protestors to hold the annual rally.
Chief Superintendant Marcelo Garbo, Regional Director of the National Capitol Region Police Office: They were not given permit by the government of Quezon City and despite that, we will be more flexible. We are open to them. In fact, we will allow them to be at Evergotesto which is the traditional place where the rallies are holding the rallies during SONA.
Ruiz: Three time former Congresswoman Liza Maza who represents the Gabriela Women’s Party criticized both the police and the president in her remarks to reporters.
Liza Maza, Former Congresswoman, Gabriela Women's Party: We will continue to shout out the problems of our citizenry pertaining to no housing, high prices of commodities. There's no jobs and poverty. This is what the government should solve. We don't want any more bullshit. We are condemning that earlier, they were using women by by giving out flowers and balloons so that we we would stop our protest. We will not take anymore of the President's bullshit. Because we know how they use force against the poor.
Ruiz: There’s extreme mistrust among the activists against the government because of a record of human rights violations and crackdowns on dissent that continue under Aquino. The human rights organization, Karapatan, documented 142extra-judicial killings and nearly 300 community organizers and activists were illegally imprisoned since he took office. Angie Ipong was an organizer for peasant farmers when she was arrested in 2005.
Angie Ipong, SELDA, Secretary General: I had been a political prisoner for six years and I have experienced torture in the hands of the military. And that's why when I was out, I was dismissed from all my charges. I told myself I must join the ranks again to be able to fight this unjust system.
Ruiz: One of the main points of the President’s nearly two hour speech that coincided with the rally was “inclusive growth.” He said this is “the principle that drives every initiative, action, and decision”
of his administration. This Spring the Philippines surpassed China as the fastest-growing economy in Asia.However,the gap between the rich and poor in the country is also the worst in Asia. According to a socioeconomic research organization, IBON, the top 40 richest Filipino individuals horde over 20 percent of the wealthof the entire Philippine economy. The government’s statistics say that 1 in four Filipinos live on less than one US dollar a day.
Ipong: His growth, what he say growth. That is only for the rich. That is only for them, not for the people.
Ruiz: The General Secretary of an international solidarity group supporting Philippine human rights was among the dozens of foreigners participating in the rally.
Malcolm Guy, International League of People's Struggles, General Secretary: This time they were able to organize a huge contingent here to the demonstration of non-Filipinos. And I think that's for me ion the 25 years I've been coming here that's the biggest number we've seen.
Natalie Agosto, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines: It was massive support from internationally, from around here. You saw all the sectors coming out. I've never seen anything like it. Super organized. You know, the masses the really came out and really made their voice heard.
Ruiz: The crowd burned the effigy chanting that President Noy Noy is a puppet for the US. Many of the protestors are against the increasing US military presence in the Philippines and foreign-owned mines and plantations that are wreaking havoc on the environment and local communities. Protests around the country and the world among the estimated 12 million overseas Filipinos are traditionally held in solidarity with this rally in Manila.
This is Dyan Ruiz for The Real News Network.