Davao groups meet SONA with protest

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – Protesters from various sectors chanted “Wala’y pagbag-o!” (No change) as they burned the effigy of President Benigno Aquino III during the “Sona sa Katawhan” at Rizal Park here today.

Representatives from various sectors – women and children, students, workers, peasants and indigenous people – from Compostela Valley and Paquibato District marched from Freedom Park along Roxas Avenue to Rizal Park as their response to the President’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Speakers from the different groups called on P-Noy to address the different issues that afflict the ordinary citizens such as the inadequate salary for workers, lack of lands for small-time farmers, commercialized education, extra-judicial killings and human rights violations, continuous increase in the price of basic commodities such as rice, sugar, oil and water.

Jeanette Mauring, a student from Assumption College of Davao, said she joined the event to uphold the students’ right to accessible and non-commercialized education. “There’s budget for education, but not enough,” she said.

Mauring also said that affordable and quality education must be prioritized by P-Noy since many students are unable to pay the increasing tuition fees. This she said in relation to the case of Kristel Tejada, a student from the University of the Philippines’ Manila campus who committed suicide last March allegedly because she was not allowed to take an examination because of unpaid school fees.

Rev. Jurie Jaime, of KARAPATAN Southern Mindanao Region, said cited in an interview the alleged increasing number of human rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly within the suburban regions, this year.

From 9 cases in 2012, they now have a record of 14 cases, he pointed out. He added that these cases include intimidation, harassment, discriminatory firing, and forceful evacuations of people.

Sheena Duazo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general, said the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Oplan Bayanihan are among the things that Bayan is protesting against, claiming that these are “anti-people” policies.

Duazo also said that they expect more lies from the fourth SONA since many people, especially from the marginalized sectors, still suffer from poverty, opposed to what P-Noy promised in his previous SONA that he will lead the country to a “Daang Matuwid.”

Joel Virador, vice-chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno, said that P-Noy is expected not to mention the real state of the nation, especially about the lands allocated to farmers, stressing the need for proper land reform programs to help improve the lives of farmers. “We need to properly implement land reform so that farmers need not go to the cities to earn a livelihood,” he said.

Virador also said that there should be improvement in the industries within the cities to provide people with more job opportunities.

Snack vendor Teresa Cogin urged the administration to do something to reduce the prices of basic commodities, especially rice. “The situation is the same, it’s just as bad,” she said. (Florienne Melendrez / MindaNews)