Aquino 'burns' in SONA protests

Militants burned President Benigno Aquino III in effigy Monday, as they protested against government policies that they said only benefit big businesses and foreign interests.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said the Aquino administration may boast of economic growth and lending money to the International Monetary Fund, but that this has nothing to do with the ordinary Filipino family.

"Umangat ba ang inyong kabuhayan?," he asked the crowd that occupied half of Commonwealth Avenue, a few kilometers from where Aquino is scheduled to deliver his SONA.

He said Aquino is no different from his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. "Kung numero sa numero lang, mas maganda pa ang statistics ni GMA," he said, "naramdaman ba?"

Despite the supposed economic gains, Casino said prices continue to  rise.

Legislation that would have curbed corruption and poverty, has yet to be passed, he said.

Among the legislation still pending are the Freedom of Information and Whistleblowers' Protection bills, Casino said.

Although cases have been filed against Arroyo, she has not been convicted yet, prompting the militant lawmaker to remark that it's easy to file cases.

He added the removal of ex-Chief Justice Renato Corona from office might also be used to make the judiciary more subservient, a sentiment other leaders who spoke at the SONA ng Bayan echoed.

Ferdie Gaite, chair of government-employee group Courage, also slammed Aquino for privatizing government services and offices through public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Urban poor group Kadamay also slammed PPPs on housing and development, saying these will drive 1.4 million urban poor families in Metro Manila from their homes. Among the projects mentioned were proposed railway stations in San Juan del Monte, Bulacan and housing in Quezon City's North Triangle.

The group said the projects will make money for big corporations but will have no benefit for the urban poor living in areas where PPPs are to be implemented.

Enteng Bautista of Kalikasan People's Network also criticized the government's new mining policy, saying it will encourage more mining by foreign firms.

"Lalong pagpipiyestahan, lalong uubusin ang likas na yaman ng Pilipinas," he said.

He said mining has already destroyed the environment in places like Surigao del Norte, where the sea has turned red and toxic because of waste from mining.

Bautista warned, however, that if the government insists on allowing more mining, it will be met with "pagkilos, paglaban, at paglaban."

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