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Opposition ‘counter-SONA’ takes jabs at Duterte’s first year

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Opposition leaders and sectoral groups staged their own State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, a week ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s second SONA on July 24.

In the “So Ano Na” forum held at UP Diliman, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano, and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros represented various sectors as they gave their respective assessments of Duterte’s first year in office.

Baguilat slammed Duterte for not delivering on his electoral promises such as ending contractualization, land distribution and the granting of titles to indigenous peoples for ancestral lands.

He also condemned Duterte’s ruthless drug war, claiming “ang karamihan ng namamatay ay mga mahihirap.”

Alejano, meanwhile, raised concerns regarding the administration’s fixation on the drug war and criticized Duterte’s stance on foreign relations and national security.

“Masyadong nag-focus ang Pangulong Duterte sa ‘war on drugs’ na nakalimutan na niyang pagtuunan ng pansin ang ibang isyu,” Alejano said.

He cited the Marawi insurgency crisis as an example, saying that the military already had acquired intelligence reports but failed to suppress the now Islamic State-backed group.

Alejano also believed that Duterte is merely using the Marawi siege, along with the drug war, to justify his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“Naghihintay lang ba ng pagkakataon ang President Dutere na maipatupad ang kanyang pinakaaasam-asam na martial law?” he asked.

Trillanes read Senator Leila De Lima’s speech while hitting back on Duterte for detaining De Lima on her alleged involvement in the Bilibid drug trade.

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He claimed that the charges against De Lima were unfounded, stating that “Duterte [only] did this to instill fear, not only to silence De Lima, in the opposition and ordinary people.”

In her speech, De Lima lamented the public’s indifference on the widespread human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.

Furthermore, Hontiveros, a women’s rights advocate, was also concerned with Duterte’s “male chauvinism and misogyny” with his regular use of rape jokes and sexist remarks during speeches and press conferences.

“It was a dangerous year to be a woman,” she said. “It’s a year of resurgent misogyny, and endless killings. It is a dangerous year for ordinary Filipinos. It’s a year of living dangerously.”

Hontiveros also urged the youth to join and support the upcoming ‘alternative’ youth SONA tomorrow, July 18, in protest of the various victims slain in the administration’s relentless anti-drug campaign.  P. Jamilla

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Protests vs charter change, ‘dictatorship’ mark People Power commemoration

Groups slammed plans to amend the constitution as a move toward another dictatorship as they commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Thousands flocked to the People Power Monument on Saturday and Sunday to protest plans to amend the constitution and to condemn the administration’s “dictatorship” as the country commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

The No to Cha-cha Coalition led by Movement Against Tyranny, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various religious formations marched to the historic monument Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, where they decried President Rodrigo Duterte as a “budding dictator.”

“[Former dictator Ferdinand] Marcos’ (sic) ouster is a grim reminder to all budding dictators, including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, that our people will never allow tyranny to reign,” Movement Against Tyranny in a statement.

The group further warned Duterte that “[s]hould he persist in his policies of extrajudicial killings, all-out war, dictatorial rule, and subservience to foreign powers, he will surely suffer the same fate as Marcos.”

The People Power Revolution led to the ousting of the Marcos regime and restored democracy in the country in 1986 after years marked with human rights violations and suppression of dissent.

The uprising also gave birth to the 1987 Constitution, which Duterte and his allies are now planning to amend through a charter change in order to establish a federal form of government.

Movement Against Tyranny has slammed the planned charter change as an “act of tyranny.”

Meanwhile, in the protest program led by opposition group Tindig Pilipinas Sunday evening, Feb. 25, Lanz Espacio of Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa rejected the moves to amend the constitution.

“The basic sectors are not asking for a constitutional change, but for a change in their condition, which was not uplifted in the last 32 years,” Espacio said.

Opposition senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV also joined the Sunday rally.

Trillanes, who has hounded Duterte with accusations of ill-gotten wealth, told reporters that he believes “na nagbabago na ang ihip ng hangin [at] nararamdaman na ng mga kababayan natin ang false promises ni Duterte, at worse, humihirap ang buhay nila ngayon.”

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The protests on Saturday and Sunday also coincided with “Dasal at Ayuno Laban sa Cha-cha, Para sa Demokrasya: Pag-amin, Pagtitika, Pagababago at Pagkakaisa,” a nine-day prayer and fasting vigil at the People Power Monument that started on Feb. 17, Saturday, led by Catholic clergy and laity group Gomburza.

In a statement, Gomburza leader Fr. Robert Reyes said the administration “seeks to cast aside this legacy, proposing to replace it with a federalist project short on social justice principles and long on authoritarian possibilities lurking beneath its extravagant promises.”

Duterte’s remarks and stand on certain issues have led to critics to tag him as a “dictator,” a label which he has seemingly acknowledged and even accepted.

In a gathering with former New People’s Army cadres last Feb. 7, the President stated, “Muingon mo’g diktador, diktador gyud ko. Kay og ‘di ko mag-diktador, putang ina, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ‘to (If you say I am a dictator, then I am. If I will not become a dictator, son of a bitch, nothing will happen to this country).

Along with charter change and threats to declare a “revolutionary government,” critics cite Duterte allowing the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao May last year and its subsequent extension until the end of this year, extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war, and his tirades against the media and opposition personalities as signs of the President’s dictatorial tendencies.

Duterte skipped the commemoration rites which was attended by former President Fidel Ramos and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, but nonetheless called for “unity and solidarity.”

“May this occasion foster unity and solidarity as we pursue our hopes and aspirations for our nation. Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedoms,” the President said in a statement.—A. Ortega

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Students decry Duterte’s ‘tyranny’ in mass walkout

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday.

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Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Students from various schools and universities in Metro Manila walked out of their classes on Friday to protest the Duterte administration’s “tyranny” and “anti-people” policies.

Around 1,000 protesters from militant student and youth groups trooped to España carrying banners and placards condemning numerous issues such as extrajudicial killings, the implementation of the free tuition policy and tuition fee hikes, the tax reform law, the phaseout of old jeepneys in the modernization program, the extension of martial law in Mindanao and charter change.

The protesters then marched to Morayta carrying an effigy of Duterte as a king holding a rod with a swastika and wearing a long red cape listing the administration’s “oppressive” policies.

The effigy was accompanied by four men wearing masks in the likeness of Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

In the program in front of the Far Eastern University, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago slammed “threats of dictatorship” and called on the youth to push for social reforms.

“Ang mga kabataan ay handang lumaban para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa, handang lumaban para sa pambansang industriyalisasyon, handang lumaban para sa libreng edukasyon sa lahat ng antas, handang lumaban para ang walang boses naman sa ating lipunan ang magkaroon ng boses,” Elago said.

Editors and leaders from different school publications, media organizations and student councils also decried “attacks” on press freedom during the protest in the midst of the President’s tirades against online news site Rappler and the banning of their reporters from the Malacañang.

Micah Rimando, editor-in-chief of Matanglawin Ateneo, said that despite these attacks, “kaming mga estudyanteng mamamahayag [ay patuloy na] magiging mulat at mapagmulat laban sa anumang atake sa karapatan ng sambayanan.”

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Meanwhile, Mikko Ringia, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council chairperson, urged student journalists to fight for “genuine” press freedom and to stand with marginalized sectors.

“Hindi ibig sabihin na ibinalik na ang license ng Rappler ay mayroon nang press freedom. Hindi ibig sabihin na wala nang libel case ang mga journalist ay andiyan na ang press freedom. Ang tunay na press freedom ay [ang] pagpapalaya sa uring pinagsasamantalahan,” Ringia said.

Activist fisherfolk, labor, and peasant groups joined students from the University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the East and the National University as they marched to Mendiola later that night, where they continued and ended the protest.

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday, earning more than 3,000 tweets and at least 2.6 million impressions.

Militant youth groups staged similar walkout protests in Baguio and Cebu, which came two days before the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Various groups are expected to hold more demonstrations in the days leading to the commemoration of the uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Feb. 22, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque warned that students from state universities could face expulsion should they participate in the protests.

“Bahala po sila kung gusto nilang ma-kickout sila. Sayang po ‘yan lalong lalo na yung sa nakikinabang sa libreng tuition,” Roque said.

Nonetheless, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan endorsed the demonstrations in a memorandum, encouraging student participation in the protests “as part of their education.”—P. Jamilla

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Senate passes new anti-hazing bill

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend the Anti-Hazing Law by strengthening existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes on Monday.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Vida/Senate PRIB.

The Senate approved on Monday on the third and final reading a bill prohibiting hazing as a prerequisite for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or organization.

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 by strengthening the existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstentions.

The bill defined hazing as “any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte, or applicant for admission or continuing membership into the fraternity, sorority or organization.”

The existing law permits hazing during an initiation rite, provided that there is a written notice addressed to the school a week before the activity.

The House approved a counterpart bill on Jan. 22.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate public order committee, said the amendments would now require organizations to submit an application to school authorities, with the initiation rites outlined seven days prior to the scheduled date.

School authorities should then supervise and report that no hazing was conducted in the initiation rites.

The bill penalizes with reclusion temporal or a fine of P1 million the officers and members of a fraternity, sorority, or organization who would participate in hazing rites.

The school would be held accountable and be fined P1 million if its officials failed to prevent hazing.

Lacson added that aside from rites in schools, the measure will also cover hazing activities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Military Academy, and Philippine National Police Academy.

The filing of the bill was prompted by the fatal hazing case of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III during the  initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity September last year.C.N. Dumaua

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