SONA: Thousands march to call for Aquino ouster

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO, Bulatlat.com –
http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/07/29/indigenous-peoples-join-call-for-aquino-ouster-at-the-peoples-sona/

July 29, 2014

President Aquino’ seven deadly sins, according to the Promotion of
Church People’s Response, are widespread poverty, rising unemployment,
sham land reform, increase in prices of staple goods and services,
unabated killings and human rights violations, corruption and the
government’s continued subservience to US interests through the signing
of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

MANILA — Thousands marched along Commonwealth Avenue to call for
President Aquino’s ouster as he delivered his fifth State of the Nation
Address on July 28.

“Aquino can talk all he wants about his daang matuwid and rosy economic
indicators, but no one is buying. His so-called achievements mean
nothing to the working people,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of
Bayan, said.

“His anti-corruption campaign is a sham because he is now exposed as the
most corrupt: being engaged in at least 116 counts of malversation,
gross violations of the General Appropriations Act as well as being
engaged in corruption of public officials and patronage politics through
the pork barrel system,” said Reyes.

At around 11 a.m., protesters, mostly in red shirts, began their march
from the corner of Luzon avenue toward the House of Representatives in
Batasan road. They were showered with peach confetti as they passed by
near Feria along Commonwealth.
(Photo by Dee Ayroso / Bulatlat.com)

(Photo by Dee Ayroso / Bulatlat.com)

Meanwhile, the stretch of Commonwealth avenue from Philcoa up to Batasan
road was strewn with blue, with thousands of uniformed members of the
Philippine National Police positioned on one side of the island.

Manila-based members of progressive groups then converged with thousands
of black-shirted protesters from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog who
were already in front of the Ever Grand Central mall as early as 6 a.m..
The advance group was the first to burn Aquino’s effigy with the label
“Noynoy’s Karnibalbalan,” a pun on the Tagalog words for “carnival” and
“untruths.” Aquino was depicted as a giant, red-nosed clown with its
mouth wide open,disgorging fantasy creatures.

Another effigy, dubbed as HolDAPer – a pig-headed Aquino with a crown,
sitting on the presidential chair and holding a gun – was burned by
protesters, during the main program.

As Aquino was giving his speech, some 100 protesters held a lightning
rally in front of the House of Representatives’ North Gate. A policeman
was quoted as saying that, “it is the first time that a rally was held
this close to the Congress.”

At around 5 p.m., after the protest speeches, rallyists moved in an
organized wave toward the almost impregnable blockade – rows of barbed
wires and cement barriers, phalanxes of police men, and a file of
container vans. As protesters tried to remove the cement barriers,
police generously sprayed pink water using water cannons.

Protesters dispersed peacefully at 6 p.m.. Two were arrested in a
separate protest action near Holy Spirit. They were released at around 9
p.m..

Neri Guerrero, chairperson of Samahan ng mga Maralitang Nagkakaisa,
belied claims that the people benefited from government programs.

Reyes said demands for Aquino’s removal from office “have increased due
to several impeachment complaints filed last week. Aquino still thinks
he is above the law and beyond the reach of the Supreme Court. We cannot
allow a wannabe dictator to reign for the next two years. He has to be
held accountable now.”

“The discontent has ripened from personal disgust, and now collective
rage. The people refuse to be dragged into a highway paved and riddled
with corruption on a carriage driven by an incompetent President and
drawn by his very own incompetent minions,” Edre Olalia, secretary
general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said.

“The people will not join Aquino’s surreal cirque du soleil, where
things only get more absurd and nothing less believable,” he added.

Overkill

Bayan assailed the “overkill” in the security measures deployed by the
police against protesters. In a statement, the group said the police,
“garrisoned the entire stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. Razor-sharp
concertina wires, steel fences and concrete barriers have been placed
along the stretch of the main road leading to Batasang Pambansa.”

The Quezon City Police District, in a letter dated July 24, said
protesters could not hold a rally near Batasang Pambansa as “there is
not enough space to assemble in the area without obstructing the free
flow of traffic.”

Protesters were told that they could hold their rally at the football
field of the Quezon City Hall compound.

Olalia said an “application to rally at a specific time and place cannot
be denied or modified just because of traffic.”

“The law says it is incumbent on police to precisely reroute traffic to
allow rallyists to march. To block the rally is illegal,” he said.

Walk out

In the House of Representatives, members of the Makabayan Bloc walked
out of the plenary hall just as Aquino was introduced to deliver his speech.

“We walked out because we want to be part of the people protesting
around Congress holding the people’s SONA today,” Gabriela Rep. Luz
Ilagan said.

Progressive partylist representatives then marched toward the North Gate
of the House of Representatives, where a lightning rally was being held.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said members of the Congress should instead
push for the impeachment complaints against Aquino on controversies
surrounding DAP and the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation
Agreement with the US.

Scarce jobs

Reyes said, “the economy has worsened under Aquino, especially in terms
of unemployment, migration, landlessness and depressed wages.”

Despite Aquino’s claims that DAP was used for much needed basic social
services for the poor, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines
(UCCP) said, “The truth remains that the poor did not experience
significant alleviation from their poverty and suffering” and that
recent reports on how DAP was spent show that “it was not for the poor.”

In fact, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research
(EILER) said pro-business policies has led to low wages in the country.

“In real terms, the minimum wage in the National Capital Region has only
increased by a mere P5 since President Aquino assumed the presidency,
which means that the cumulative P62-wage increase approved by the
regional wage board since 2010 is almost gobbled up by astronomic price
hikes,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.

“On a broader scale, the real wage has been in steady decline for the
past 30 years. It is clear that President Aquino’s economic policies
have failed to cause even the slightest uptick in Filipino workers’
purchasing power,” she added.

“It is reprehensible that the poor are abused for such politicking and
disinformation,” the UCCP said.

“If President Aquino cannot bring himself to repent from his
wrongdoings, his next best step would be to resign from office as
President,” the UCCP said.

Human rights violations

Human rights group Karapatan said Aquino’s four years in office are
“marked with human rights violations, his ‘medalla de horror,’ committed
against those opposed to the anti-people policies and programs of the
government,” said the group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay.

She said 117 peasants were killed in defending their right to land from
big business corporations while 49 indigenous peoples were also killed
when they fought for their ancestral lands from foreign mining corporations.

There are 204 victims of extrajudicial killings from July 2010 to June
2014, according to Karapatan.

“However, Aquino blames his predecessor for all his and his regime’s
woes, he cannot deny his similarity with Gloria Arroyo in perpetuating
corruption and terror,” Palabay said, “A continuum exists.”

Palabay cited the recent killing of Gregorio Galacio, father of Grecil
Buya, a nine-year old girl killed in 2007. The military claimed Grecil
was a child combatant of the New People’s Army, which they later on
retracted.

Karapatan said that in Galacio’s effort to have justice served for the
killing of his daughter, “in the process, he became a victim himself of
military harassment and red tagging.”

‘Deadly sins’

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said the time has come
when the “yellow magic” could no longer disguise the reality and that
“no alibi can pacify the growing discontent of the people.”

PCPR added that the Aquino administration continued to impose the same
policies that favored foreign and big corporations. “By doing so, he has
been committing deadly sins that largely inflict agony to the majority
of the populace.”

Aquino’s seven deadly sins, according to PCPR, are widespread poverty,
rising unemployment, sham land reform, increase in prices of staple
goods and services, unabated killings and human rights violations,
corruption and the government’s continued subservience to US interests
through the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The National Council of Churches in Philippines (NCCP) has expressed
concern about the “hypocrisy of the President in accumulating his own
discretionary funds through DAP” which by far exceeds by billions of
pesos than that of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

“The core of democracy is accountability and transparency,” the NCCP
said, “When politicians and presidents choose to accumulate funds to
themselves without adequate checks and balances then corruption will
always flourish.”

“Amplifying the call of the poor people, we demand restitution for the
most affected by corruption — the poor people by asking Aquino to step
down from his office and preserve what moral decency is left to him,”
Fr.Kristoffenson Alea, executive director of the Task Force on Urban
Conscientization, said. (With reports from Anne Marxze D.
Umil)(http://bulatlat.com)