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MANILA, Philippines - Despite of threats of rain, thousands of protesters are expected to attend the protest action against President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
Early Monday morning, a small group of protesters already gathered along Commonwealth Avenue, near Ever Gotesco mall. The group Filipino Freethinkers, clad in maternity dresses, posed as pregnant Aquinos and carried baby dolls to call for the immediate passage of the Reproductive Health Bill.
FF president Red Tani said the non-passage of the RH Bill was "negligent" of the President, given that 12 women die each day due to maternal complications.
"An RH law is an intrinsic part of our nation's quest for true progress; we cannot let PNoy forget this," Tani said in a statement.
Aside from FF, other groups such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) will join protests with farmers, women, and labor groups.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said despite of the bad weather, protest actions will still continue to make public the "true" state of the nation.
“The people have borne the brunt of the crisis the past two years, as the regime continues its assault on people’s livelihood, human rights and national sovereignty. The rains outside we can handle. It’s the downpour of lies and half-truths during the SONA which is the problem,” Reyes said.
“As with the previous Arroyo regime, the people are once again pushed as far away from Batasan Pambansa as possible. This is a continuing reminder that the Aquino regime is not truly for the people. The regime thinks highly of itself but fears the people. It fears the truth. It simply wants to ignore and suppress the people’s legitimate demands for social justice,” he added.
Security on SONA
An estimated 6,000 policemen were deployed around Metro Manila for the SONA. The Philippine National Police (PNP) also went on full alert for maximum security during protests. PNP chief Nicanor Bartolome appealed to rallyists to closely coordinate their activities to police commanders to prevent any miscommunication.
Protesters were only allowed up to St. Peter's Church along Commonwealth Avenue, where they were greeted with a police blockade.
Bayan has been contesting this blockade, saying it violated the constitutional rights of the people as well as Batas Pambansa 880 which sets the guidelines for the application of rally permits.
“This government boasts of a ‘daang matuwid’ but it can’t even follow the Constitution and its own Public Assembly Act,” the group said.
Bayan said that Aquino has failed to address “the basic issues of land, jobs, health, human rights, and sovereignty.”
Citing data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys, Bayan said hunger has affected 4 million families during Aquino's two years in office, while poverty has affected 10 million families.
“Aquino has succeeded in blocking any meaningful wage increase; selling out PH patrimony to big mining firms; preventing genuine land reform; and privatizing basic social services. It has succeeded in catering to the interests of big business, foreign and local. The increase in the number of Conditional Cash Transfer beneficiaries only underscores the worsening situation of the poor, as they more and more have to makes use of government dole-outs,” Reyes said.
“Many of the so-called achievements of this government, such as the S&P credit upgrade, the rise in the stock market index, record gross international reserves, and the loan extended to the IMF, are all quite meaningless to the ordinary Filipino facing high prices, landlessness, and low wages,” he added.
Bayan also said that the Aquino regime has succeeded in allowing more US troops to enter the country as part of the rebalancing strategy of the US military. The group warned that the Aquino government will single-handedly reverse the gains from the eviction of US military bases in 1991, by allowing the permanent presence of US troops in the guise of “helping the Philippines against China.”