PROTESTERS who attempted to march to the Batasan Pambansa where President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday were met with water canNons and a phalanx of policemen.
As Aquino was delivering his speech, members of militant groups tried to inch past the police barrier that kept them from getting near the Batasan Complex, prompting the police to use water cannons from firetrucks.
For almost half an hour, the rallyists were doused with water. Some fought back by throwing objects at the policemen and firemen.
When they realized that they could not pass through the police barriers, the protesters burned an effigy of the President and then dispersed.
As expected, thousands of members of militant groups massed near the Batasan Pambansa—home to the House of Representatives—hours before Aquino delivered his fifth SONA.
The rallyists marched to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City at sunrise on Monday, joined by employees of government-run PTV-4 and IBC-13. But they were met by over 3,000 policemen who prevented them from reaching the House of Representatives.
This did not deter the protesters, who placed their number at 12,000, from holding a program using a ten-wheeler truck as their stage.
“Aquino can talk all he wants about his daang matuwid [straight path]and rosy economic indicators, but no one is buying. His achievements mean nothing to the ordinary working people. His anti-corruption campaign is a sham because he is now exposed as the most corrupt, being engaged in at least 116 counts of technical 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,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
Bayan spearheaded the impeachment complaints filed against the President last week.
Reyes said protesters from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog joined their Metro Manila contingent, making this year’s rally bigger than previous SONA protests under Aquino.
Members of the Partido ng Manggagawa, Philippine Airlines Employees Association and the coalition Nagkaisa along with former House of Representatives members Satur Ocampo and Liza Masa joined the march.
Like Bayan, the Partido ng Manggagawa criticized the government for the growing inequality between the rich and the poor despite the growth in economy.
“Puro salita at walang gawa ang islogan ni PNoy na inclusive growth.
Paano matitikman ng mga manggagawa ang kaunlaran kung ayaw ni PNoy na tutulan ang kontraktwalisasyon at hinayaan lang ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at mga gastusin gaya ng kuryente [PNoy’s slogan of inclusive growth is all talk, no action. How can workers enjoy development when PNoy refuses to oppose contractualization and he lets the prices of basic commodities, including electricity, go up”) its spokesman Wilson Fortaleza said.
Pnoy is short for President Noynoy (Aquino’s nickname).
“In PNoy’s fifth SONA, the bosses are still poor. No rules were straightened and no one crossed away from poverty,” he added.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Kilusang Kontra Pork (KonTRAPOrk) and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) also assailed the Aquino government for “four years of misleading and betraying the people.”
“Tuwid na Daan is fake and rotten. There are no meaningful reforms under PNoy’s administration just like in previous administrations. Now more than ever, the Filipino people must advance their struggle for human rights, new politics, new economy and a new system,” the group said in a joint statement.
Professor Eduardo Tadem, FDC president and land reform policy expert, said a major source of disenchantment with the Aquino administration is its lack of attention and commitment to agrarian reform.
“An incompetent Department of Agrarian Reform bureaucracy allowed the agrarian reform program to lapse without completing the land distribution component, misrepresented its achievements, and turned a blind eye to reversals that have taken place in the form of massive land conversions and cancelations of land awards,” Tadem noted.
Despite the brief clash between the protesters and policemen, Metro Manila was peaceful on Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
The PNP was on full alert and deployed its forces in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, as well as the National Capital Regional Police Office (Ncrpo) and the Special Action Force (SAF).
Around 10,000 policemen secured Metro Manila (National Capital Region).
The PNP Public Information Office director, Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, said no untoward incident was recorded.
The Quezon City Police District spokesman, Senior Insp. Maricar Taqueban, estimated that at least 7,000 protesters gathered at Commonwealth Avenue.
Sindac said senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile were allowed to watch the President deliver his SONA on television.
Revilla and Estrada are detained at the PNP Custodial Center while Enrile is under arrest at the police hospital in Camp Crame, the national police headquarters in Quezon City.