SONA: Sectors lay down demands to Marcos’s government

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Left-wing activists talks to policemen barricading Commonwealth Avenue ahead of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's last annual State of the Nation Address (SONA), in Quezon City, Philippines
Left-wing activist leader Renato Reyes talks to policemen barricading Commonwealth Avenue, to let protesters pass through, ahead of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's last annual State of the Nation Address (SONA), in Quezon City, Philippines, July 26, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will deliver his first-ever State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 25) at the Batasang Pambansa complex to lay down his administration’s plans for the country.

Meanwhile, progressive groups will gather in protest in the streets to register the basic sectors’ needs, and to hold the Marcos Jr. administration to account.

And in different press conferences and state of the sectors’ addresses, several organizations and formations representing the most basic sectors in the country laid down what their expectations are for the new government.

Security of tenure, additional support for transport sector

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES - JULY 27: Filipino jeepney drivers carrying banners gather to protest as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), at Commonwealth Avenue, near University of the Philippines in Quezon City, Philippines on July 27, 2020. (Photo by DANTE DIOSINA JR/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES - JULY 27: Filipino jeepney drivers carrying banners gather to protest as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), at Commonwealth Avenue, near University of the Philippines in Quezon City, Philippines on July 27, 2020. (Photo by DANTE DIOSINA JR/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Representatives from different groups and formations under the labor sector held a “State of the Labor Address” on Saturday (July 23) at the University Hotel in UP Diliman to lay down the demands of workers from the Marcos Jr. administration.

Among those who are present are former senatorial candidate and Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer “Bong” Labog, and ex-presidential candidate and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino chairperson Leody De Guzman.

KILOS NA Manggagawa spokesperson, Julie Ann Gutierrez, decried the state of contractual workers in the country, and the lack of security of tenure. She said that six or seven out of 10 workers in the Philippines are contractual workers, and she called on the Marcos Jr. government to hear their pleas for livable wage and regularization.

Ang sabi po ng pangulong nakaupo ngayon, ang pangarap natin ay pangarap niya. Kaya ito po ang pangarap naming mga manggagawa, makamit ang karapatan namin … Lalung-lalo na ang karapatan naming mag-unyon,” she said.

(The sitting president said that our dream is his dream. So this is the dream of us workers: to achieve our rights... Especially our right to organize unions),

Mody Floranda, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) national president, said that the continuing jeepney modernization program of the previous administration continues to be a burden to jeepney drivers, as well as the non-suspension of excise tax on fuels and value-added tax on other petroleum products.

Meanwhile, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees’ Santi Dasmarias slammed the proposed rightsizing of the government bureaucracy, saying that it will affect the livelihood and job security of an estimated 600,000 government workers.

Free land distribution to farmers, production subsidy to fisherfolk

Filipino protesters belonging an activist fishermen’s group parade a caricature of President Rodrigo Duterte as they march towards the Philippine Congress to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, July 22, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Richard James Mendoza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Filipino protesters belonging an activist fishermen’s group parade a caricature of President Rodrigo Duterte as they march towards the Philippine Congress to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, July 22, 2019 in Manila, Philippines. (Photo by Richard James Mendoza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

During a “State of the Peasant Address” on Saturday titled “Nilulutong Krisis” (Brewing Crisis), different peasant groups like Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan), and Anakpawis Partylist held a primer of the current situation of peasants, farm workers and fisherfolk in the country.

Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, a former Anakpawis Partylist Representative and Secretary of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) under former President Rodrigo Duterte, said that seven out of 10 farmers in the country do not own the land that they’re tilling.

Mariano said that although Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 75 in 2019 mandating concerned government agencies to identify government-owned lands suitable for agriculture and distribute them to qualified farmers without land, it still won’t count as agrarian reform.

Walang naging bago sa reporma sa agraryo sa ilalim ni Duterte. Naidagdag lang ang EO 75 o pamamahagi ng government-owned lands. Pero nanatili pa ring hawak ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno ang desisyon kung itu-turnover nila sa DAR ang mga lupa,” he said.

(There was nothing new in terms of agrarian reform under Duterte. There was only the EO 75 or distribution of government-owned lands. But it is still up to the government agencies whether they will turn it over to the DAR.)

Mariano said that the peasant sector is pushing for the filing, and eventual passage, of the Free Land Distribution Bill, a bill similar to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program but based on the principle of social justice to ensure that it will uplift the lives of the farmers.

For the fisherfolk sector, Pamalakaya, a national federation of fisherfolk organizations in the country, said that the state still has no respect for fishermen’s democratic rights.

Hindi itinataguyod ng mga umiiral na fisheries code at amendment ang pag-unlad ng pangingisda sa bansa. Instrumento pa ito upang pahirapan ang maliliit na mangingisda,” the group said.

([The government] doesn’t care about the fisheries code and amendments to it in improving the fisheries sector in the country. Instead, it is being used to harass small fisherfolk.)

Aside from reclamation projects by San Miguel Corporation in Bulacan and the Revilla’s in Cavite, fishermen are being thrown out of their livelihood, and cited a study they conducted that says 70% of their daily earnings have been slashed since the government started importing huge volumes of fish.

Sa pagbaha ng imported na isda sa mga pamilihan, lalong malulugi ang mga mangingisda sa pambabarat ng presyo ng kanilang produkto,” Pamalakaya added.

(With the overflowing of imported fish in the market, fishermen are bound to lose because their products are being lowballed.)

Which is why, Pamalakaya is calling on the Marcos Jr. administration to provide a P15,000 production subsidy, and the junking of the fisheries code.

Teachers’ salary upgrading, educational reforms

In a petition letter submitted on Thursday (July 21) by 20 teachers representing the sector and signed by a total of 200 teaching and non-teaching personnel organizations, teachers’ group the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines demands from the Marcos Jr. administration the long-overdue salary upgrading of teachers and some reforms in the education sector, including the overhauling of the K to 12 educational system.

Citing the recent Pulse Asia survey that says more Filipinos are dissatisfied with K-12 than those who are satisfied, they say that part of this problem is the fact that teachers are not getting paid enough, forcing them to take odd jobs, or other part-time jobs instead of focusing on their profession as educators.

The teachers’ group laid down their demands in 10 points, which include doubling the budget of the education department to hire more teachers and cut class size to around 35 per section and non-teaching personnel to unburden teachers of too much administrative duties and paperwork, provide the necessary learning equipment to ensure quality teaching and education, bringing back subjects like Philippine History as required subjects in high school and tertiary education, improve the benefits of teachers who are SSS and GSIS members, among many others.

The group also decried the “overkill” deployment of more than 20,000 troops on the day of the SONA and the billions of pesos spent in preparing, which could’ve been used instead to increase the salary of teachers or ensure a safe back-to-school program.

“More than 21,000 police force, not counting soldiers and other force multipliers, will be mobilized to prevent protest actions that will only air the just demands of the people in the face of the economic crisis we are enduring,” Vladimer Quetua, ACT’s chairperson, said.

Safe reopening of schools, providing aid to students

In a virtual press conference held on Saturday (July 24), the youth sector, represented by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel, and other youth and student leaders from different colleges and universities nationwide as well as members of mass organizations, are calling on the administration of President Marcos to certify as urgent the bills on the safe reopening of schools and P10,000 aid to students.

The Safe School Reopening Bill and Emergency Student Aid and Relief Bill were filed last year by Manuel’s predecessor, former Rep. Sarah Elago.

Ito ang dapat i-certify as urgent ni Marcos Jr. kung gusto niyang magkaroon ng pondo para maging ligtas ang plano nilang pagbubukas ng mga campus,” Manuel said.

(These bills are what Marcos Jr. should certify as urgent if he wants adequate funds for a safe reopening of schools.)

Hindi pwedeng salita lang, dapat may pondo at aksyon,” he added.

(Mere words aren’t enough, there also must be funds and action.)

Manuel also said that instead of mandatory ROTC, the government should instead prioritize bringing back Philippine History, Filipino, Panitikan (Literature) and Constitution subjects in high school and in college “if we want the youth to be more nationalistic.”

The lone representative of youth in Congress is also calling on the Marcos government to implement a moratorium on tuition fee increases and collection of exorbitant fees, and to prohibit police and military forces within the school premises, among others.

Ayaw natin sa SONA na puro rhetoric tungkol sa ‘unity.’ Ayaw natin sa SONA na iiwas sa katotohanan sa datos at sa aktwal na nararanasan ng mga naghihirap na Pilipino…” Manuel said.

(We don’t want a SONA that rehashes rhetoric on ‘unity.’ We don’t want a SONA that denies factual data and the lived experiences of struggling Filipinos.)

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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