Scores of protests mark Philippine President’s midterm speech

Community News & Features Jul 26, 2019 at 4:13 pm
TORONTO

TORONTO (6 Photos courtesy of Ysh Cabana)

SONA 2019 Rallies

By Ysh Cabana
The Philippine Reporter

Calling for unity to register their discontent with the current administration, groups converged in different cities around the world ahead of the fourth annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday July 22, 2019.

Led by multisectoral alliance of BAYAN-Canada organizations, together with newly formed Malaya Movement Canada, protesters carried banners saying “Tama na! Sobra na! People Power na!” a battlecry that roughly translates to a phrase meaning “Enough already, People power now.”

OTTAWA

OTTAWA

The SONA is an annual event where the Philippine president delivers a report to lawmakers on the state of the country and presents policy reforms and bills that he wants to be prioritised and enacted. It is traditionally held on the fourth Monday of July.

In Toronto, where the largest population of Filipinos reside in Canada, several youth staged a “silent protest” in the midtown Philippine Consulate office on Friday days before the actual SONA.

“The Philippine government should also assert their own people’s rights and sovereignty in relation to US imperialism and China’s aggression,” read a statement from youth group Anakbayan, who say they were directed to leave the consulate premises or else be removed by the police.

The Byward Market is a busy fare in the capital city of Ottawa, especially on a Sunday afternoon. It is also where cause-oriented groups Ontario Committe for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP) and Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada decided to conduct their protest march from the U.S. Embassy in the vicinity raising their concerns on Duterte’s “tyrannical and anti-people policies” and the human rights violations with increased militarization.

MONTREAL

MONTREAL

As chalk marks are drawn on the ground in front of the Philippine Embassy, the demonstrators chant “No justice, no peace. Stop the killings in the Philippines!”
In his address midway through his six-year term, Duterte’s first appeal was for Congress to reinstate the death penalty. Death penalty was abolished in the 1987, making the Philippines the first Asian country to do so. But it was reinstated in 1993 and abolished again in 2006.

“I respectfully request Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to illegal drugs as well as plunder,” Duterte said.

Aside from the creation of the Water Regulatory Commission following the recent water crisis in parts of Metro Manila, a Department of Disaster Resilience, and the National Academy for Sports, Duterte emphasized on government agencies’ responsibility to streamline their services and introduce electronic services for the public’s convenience.
The President also stressed the need to set up Department of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers).

VANCOUVER

VANCOUVER

However, for Vancouver-based Gabriela-BC, things are not better for migrant women particularly since Duterte came to power in 2016.

“Women are tired of it, we are not safe in the Philippines. We are not safe when we go to work abroad,” says Danelle Ortiz. “We have to understand that the reason why we are here in Canada is because of the conditions in the Philippines.”

The group added this is still the case despite the fact that Duterte signed the new “Bawal Bastos Law” (or Safe Spaces Act) that punishes catcalling and other gender-based harassment in public. They pointed out Duterte even had sexist remarks in no less than his 93-minute SONA.

“Boracay island is just the beginning.  And the girls there… are waiting for you gentlemen,” jokes Duterte as in his previous speeches.

Australia, photo courtesy of Peter Brock

Australia, photo courtesy of Peter Brock

While popularity is at reported record-high ratings for the Philippine president, thousands of OFWs in countries such Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, Austria, Italy, and cities across the U.S. add their voice virtually and in SONA street protests. Many former Duterte supporters are taken aback after hearing reports of electoral fraud in May 2019 and neglect of fellow workers including the case of the recent execution of a 39-year-old Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia in January.

In Metro Manila, police officials estimate 5,500 people had gathered, but independent estimates put the crowd at over 40,000 at the “United People’s SONA” who were drenched in rain in colorful burning costumes, chanting slogans, and creative effigies.

Demonstrators also burned an effigy of Duterte, that was created to look like a sea creature with the President’s distorted face and holding a Chinese flag and a gun.
“Atin ang Pinas, China layas (The Philippines is ours. China leave).”

HONG KONG

HONG KONG

Korea, photo courtesy of Chat Dimaano

Korea, photo courtesy of Chat Dimaano

UK, photo courtesy of Garry Martinez

UK, photo courtesy of Garry Martinez

WASHINGTON DC

WASHINGTON DC