Militants in Mindanao greet SONA with protests

Frankie Del Rosario, Bayan Southern Mindanao spokesperson said around 2,000 members of progressive and allied people's organizations will join the protest actions, to be highlighted by the burning of an effigy of the president after her speech.

He said nothing much is new about the actions — to match what they called Arroyo's same old brags, "accomplishments based on statistics that did not really trickle down to the poor".

But the group said the effigy will have longer nails, a new feature, to mark Arroyo's implementation of the Human Security Act and her continuing "state terrorism" policy.

Del Rosario admitted they will demonize the President even more, a protest theme they had flaunted in the last six SONAs she had delivered.

He said the protest actions will be the same in major cities around Mindanao.

"It took Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo eight times to revise her Sona speech, but we only have one clear message for her that does not need editing ever since she took over as President of this country, that is the call for her immediate ouster," he stressed.

While militants will troop to the streets, top government officials revealed no plans of witnessing the television coverage of the SONA together.

Information officials of the Mindanao Economic Development Council and the Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies (ARENA) told MindaNews they will just watch on their own.

The group's main issues in the protest, Del Rosario said, are to call for Arroyo's ouster and to "fail government terrorism."

But aside from political attacks on Arroyo, the group also hit her economic policies.

The hype on the economy, Bayan argued, is only an illusion created to cover up the country's “backward economy.”

Bayan hit the SONA as the President's occasion to brag saying previews to the speech show it will focus on her vision of transforming the country into a First World country in 20 years.

"But this year's SONA is not different from her previous speeches. Her accomplishments are only based on statistics which never trickled down to the basic masses nor contributed to improve their lives."

"The peso may have reached its seven-year high of P44.80 to a $1, but that does not have a significant impact on the lives of 69 million Filipinos or 80 percent o our population who struggle to survive on less than $2 each day," del Rosario said.

The group lambasted the Arroyo administration's record in debt servicing as the highest in the country's history and blamed it for cuts in budgets for social services.

They also hit the administration for allegedly becoming authoritarian like the Marcos regime by implementing the Human Security Act of 2007 or the anti-terror law.

The group will assemble at the city's Freedom Park near the Ateneo de Davao University from 11a.m. to 1p.m. before marching to the Rizal Park where they will hold a protest program.

Del Rosario said at least four bands will have cultural presentations, including a group of banana workers from Compostela Valley called Tagok Band.

He said the SONA rallies are usually among the group's biggest gatherings every year so they are also on the watch against alleged ‘infiltrators’ from the military who conduct surveillance operations.

He warned they shouldn't be provoked as they only wanted a non-violent protest. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)