Groups: Marcos’s SONA ‘tokenistic on sovereignty, no mention of human rights’

·2 min read
President Ferdinand
Lawmakers applaud Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as he delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2022. Aaron Favila/Pool via REUTERS

Progressive groups have called out President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), labeling it as “tokenistic” with regards to national sovereignty, and mentioning that there was “no mention of human rights” throughout his speech.

Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA), a progressive group for fisherfolks, said on Tuesday (July 26) that national sovereignty was “only briefly mentioned with no comprehensive plan on how to recover our territorial water currently occupied and being robbed by China.”

“This tokenistic statement brings us back to the puppetry days of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte,” PAMALAKAYA national spokesperson Rommel Arambulo said. “Does this mean that in the next six years, we will be enduring another administration that will set aside our historic, political, and legal territorial claims in the name of foreign relations which are one-sided and burdensome in essence?”

On June 27, a vessel of the Chinese Coast Guard tried to drive away patrol boats of the Philippine Navy between Pag-asa and Zamora Reef, wherein the latter stood its ground and told China to not interfere.

Arambulo added that “We can’t afford another puppet administration”, especially in light of fisherfolk being displaced due to harassment from Chinese state forces.

“There are around 600,000 Filipino fishers from Zambales and Southern Tagalog provinces affected by Chinese incursion. In Zambales, for instance, 70% of daily income of a fisherfolk has been lost since China seized Panatag Shoal in 2012,” Arambulo said.

Meanwhile, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) called Marcos “indifferent to the human rights issues that haunt the Filipino people from the past administration.”

“The non-mention of human rights issues and peace talks is false neutrality; the President simply seems to condone the fascist counter-insurgency programs and the bloody drug war from the predecessor administration,” SCMP national spokesperson Kej Andres said.

Human rights group Karapatan’s tally on extrajudicial killings from the start of Duterte’s term to December 2021 is at 427, while illegal arrests were at 3,000. Some reports have also estimated that the number of casualties of Duterte’s drug war was at 30,000.

During his interview with Boy Abunda, Marcos Jr. said that he would only allow members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to enter the Philippines as tourists.

SCMP called on Filipinos to “demand accountability from the government to uphold human rights.”

“Through condemning killings and red-tagging, as well as advocating for national peace talks to address the roots of armed conflict, we will be able to be vigilant towards the state of human rights in the country,” Andres said.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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