President Aquino’ seven deadly sins, according to the Promotion of Church People’s Response, are widespread poverty, rising unemployment, sham land reform, increase in prices of staple goods and services, unabated killings and human rights violations, corruption and the government’s continued subservience to US interests through the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Thousands marched along Commonwealth Avenue to call for President Aquino’s ouster as he delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address on July 28.
“Aquino can talk all he wants about his daang matuwid and rosy economic indicators, but no one is buying. His so-called achievements mean nothing to the working people,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan, said.
“His anti-corruption campaign is a sham because he is now exposed as the most corrupt: being engaged in at least 116 counts of 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,” said Reyes.
At around 11 a.m., protesters, mostly in red shirts, began their march from the corner of Luzon avenue toward the House of Representatives in Batasan road. They were showered with peach confetti as they passed by near Feria along Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, the stretch of Commonwealth avenue from Philcoa up to Batasan road was strewn with blue, with thousands of uniformed members of the Philippine National Police positioned on one side of the island.
Manila-based members of progressive groups then converged with thousands of black-shirted protesters from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog who were already in front of the Ever Grand Central mall as early as 6 a.m.. The advance group was the first to burn Aquino’s effigy with the label “Noynoy’s Karnibalbalan,” a pun on the Tagalog words for “carnival” and “untruths.” Aquino was depicted as a giant, red-nosed clown with its mouth wide open,disgorging fantasy creatures.
Another effigy, dubbed as HolDAPer – a pig-headed Aquino with a crown, sitting on the presidential chair and holding a gun – was burned by protesters, during the main program.
As Aquino was giving his speech, some 100 protesters held a lightning rally in front of the House of Representatives’ North Gate. A policeman was quoted as saying that, “it is the first time that a rally was held this close to the Congress.”
At around 5 p.m., after the protest speeches, rallyists moved in an organized wave toward the almost impregnable blockade – rows of barbed wires and cement barriers, phalanxes of police men, and a file of container vans. As protesters tried to remove the cement barriers, police generously sprayed pink water using water cannons.
Protesters dispersed peacefully at 6 p.m.. Two were arrested in a separate protest action near Holy Spirit. They were released at around 9 p.m..
Neri Guerrero, chairperson of Samahan ng mga Maralitang Nagkakaisa, belied claims that the people benefited from government programs.
Reyes said demands for Aquino’s removal from office “have increased due to several impeachment complaints filed last week. Aquino still thinks he is above the law and beyond the reach of the Supreme Court. We cannot allow a wannabe dictator to reign for the next two years. He has to be held accountable now.”
“The discontent has ripened from personal disgust, and now collective rage. The people refuse to be dragged into a highway paved and riddled with corruption on a carriage driven by an incompetent President and drawn by his very own incompetent minions,” Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said.
“The people will not join Aquino’s surreal cirque du soleil, where things only get more absurd and nothing less believable,” he added.
Bayan assailed the “overkill” in the security measures deployed by the police against protesters. In a statement, the group said the police, “garrisoned the entire stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. Razor-sharp concertina wires, steel fences and concrete barriers have been placed along the stretch of the main road leading to Batasang Pambansa.”
The Quezon City Police District, in a letter dated July 24, said protesters could not hold a rally near Batasang Pambansa as “there is not enough space to assemble in the area without obstructing the free flow of traffic.”
Protesters were told that they could hold their rally at the football field of the Quezon City Hall compound.
Olalia said an “application to rally at a specific time and place cannot be denied or modified just because of traffic.”
“The law says it is incumbent on police to precisely reroute traffic to allow rallyists to march. To block the rally is illegal,” he said.
In the House of Representatives, members of the Makabayan Bloc walked out of the plenary hall just as Aquino was introduced to deliver his speech.
“We walked out because we want to be part of the people protesting around Congress holding the people’s SONA today,” Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said.
Progressive partylist representatives then marched toward the North Gate of the House of Representatives, where a lightning rally was being held.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said members of the Congress should instead push for the impeachment complaints against Aquino on controversies surrounding DAP and the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US.
Reyes said, “the economy has worsened under Aquino, especially in terms of unemployment, migration, landlessness and depressed wages.”
Despite Aquino’s claims that DAP was used for much needed basic social services for the poor, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) said, “The truth remains that the poor did not experience significant alleviation from their poverty and suffering” and that recent reports on how DAP was spent show that “it was not for the poor.”
In fact, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said pro-business policies has led to low wages in the country.
“In real terms, the minimum wage in the National Capital Region has only increased by a mere P5 since President Aquino assumed the presidency, which means that the cumulative P62-wage increase approved by the regional wage board since 2010 is almost gobbled up by astronomic price hikes,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.
“On a broader scale, the real wage has been in steady decline for the past 30 years. It is clear that President Aquino’s economic policies have failed to cause even the slightest uptick in Filipino workers’ purchasing power,” she added.
“It is reprehensible that the poor are abused for such politicking and disinformation,” the UCCP said.
“If President Aquino cannot bring himself to repent from his wrongdoings, his next best step would be to resign from office as President,” the UCCP said.
Human rights violations
Human rights group Karapatan said Aquino’s four years in office are “marked with human rights violations, his ‘medalla de horror,’ committed against those opposed to the anti-people policies and programs of the government,” said the group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay.
She said 117 peasants were killed in defending their right to land from big business corporations while 49 indigenous peoples were also killed when they fought for their ancestral lands from foreign mining corporations.
There are 204 victims of extrajudicial killings from July 2010 to June 2014, according to Karapatan.
“However, Aquino blames his predecessor for all his and his regime’s woes, he cannot deny his similarity with Gloria Arroyo in perpetuating corruption and terror,” Palabay said, “A continuum exists.”
Palabay cited the recent killing of Gregorio Galacio, father of Grecil Buya, a nine-year old girl killed in 2007. The military claimed Grecil was a child combatant of the New People’s Army, which they later on retracted.
Karapatan said that in Galacio’s effort to have justice served for the killing of his daughter, “in the process, he became a victim himself of military harassment and red tagging.”
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said the time has come when the “yellow magic” could no longer disguise the reality and that “no alibi can pacify the growing discontent of the people.”
PCPR added that the Aquino administration continued to impose the same policies that favored foreign and big corporations. “By doing so, he has been committing deadly sins that largely inflict agony to the majority of the populace.”
Aquino’s seven deadly sins, according to PCPR, are widespread poverty, rising unemployment, sham land reform, increase in prices of staple goods and services, unabated killings and human rights violations, corruption and the government’s continued subservience to US interests through the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
The National Council of Churches in Philippines (NCCP) has expressed concern about the “hypocrisy of the President in accumulating his own discretionary funds through DAP” which by far exceeds by billions of pesos than that of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
“The core of democracy is accountability and transparency,” the NCCP said, “When politicians and presidents choose to accumulate funds to themselves without adequate checks and balances then corruption will always flourish.”
“Amplifying the call of the poor people, we demand restitution for the most affected by corruption — the poor people by asking Aquino to step down from his office and preserve what moral decency is left to him,” Fr.Kristoffenson Alea, executive director of the Task Force on Urban Conscientization, said. (With reports from Anne Marxze D. Umil)