“Change is not served on the table. In reality, we should fight for genuine change.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Thousands gathered for what is dubbed as the People’s Summit at the University of the Philippines Film Institute, Wednesday, June 29.
Various sectors presented a 15-point agenda focusing on economic development, good governance and the fight against corruption, social policy, peace and human rights and foreign policy.
The People’s Agenda is a product of consultations and workshops among different sectors held in the past weeks. The groups identified possible reforms, which they deem as feasible in the first 100 days of the incoming administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In his opening speech, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Duterte won the elections because the Filipino people “are fed up with the rotten system and are yearning for change.”
Zarate said that with the Duterte presidency, a lot of opportunities have opened up. He cited Duterte’s positive pronouncements on resolving the problems of farmers and indigenous peoples, the need to address the roots of the armed conflict, the release of political prisoners, an end to contractualization , among others.
Zarate also lauded the appointment of progressive individuals in the Duterte Cabinet. Former UP Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo is the incoming head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Rafael Mariano of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas will be the first farmer to be appointed as Agrarian Reform Secretary. Labor leader Joel Maglunsod will serve as Labor Undersecretary.
Amid these positive developments, Zarate recognized that the “force of reactionary and conservatives, of US imperialism and big capitalists and landlords remains strong.”
“Ang pagbabago ay hindi inihahain sa hapag. Sa katunayan, kailangan nating ipaglaban ang tunay na pagbabago,” (Change is not served on the table. In reality, we should fight for genuine change.) Zarate said.
Various sectors and groups took turns in presenting their most urgent demands.
To achieve economic development, Jose Enrique Africa of Ibon Foundation said, it is imperative to “break free from unfair and foreign-biased agreements.”
Africa said Duterte could choose to implement national industrialization that would benefit the majority of the Filipino people.
Antonio Flores of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Filipino farmers want genuine agrarian reform. He called on Duterte to distribute the vast tracts of agricultural lands, starting with Hacienda Luisita, which has been controlled by President Aquino’s clan for more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, workers from both the public and private sectors look forward to Duterte’s promise of ending contractualization. They are also pushing for a national minimum wage.
On the issue of social policy reforms, members of the theater group UP Repertory Company performed a skit highlighting the insufficient social services, problems with mass transportation, privatization of health care, among others.
Peace and human rights advocates presented their demands as People’s Chorale sang “Batingaw.” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, called on Duterte to junk the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan and give justice to the victims of human rights violations.
Lumad evacuees from Surigao del Sur, mostly children, danced and sang, expressing hope that Duterte would pull military and paramilitary groups out of their ancestral domain. Some 2,000 Lumad have been staying in Tandag City for 300 days due to heavy military operations.
Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan of Pagbabago presented proposals for good governance and fighting corruption.
The groups are calling for accountability of Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Other recommendations include the abolition of the pork barrel system, enactment of Freedom of Information bill, transparency in government transactions, among others.
Mananzan added that while they support the campaign against illegal drugs, respect for human rights and due process should be upheld.
On foreign policy, Liza Maza of Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) said the Duterte administration should stop U.S. military intervention in the country, assert national sovereignty and patrimony.
Specifically, the groups called for the junking of “unfair” bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
Just the beginning
Taguiwalo, Mariano and Maglunsod and legislators from Makabayan coalition received their copies of the People’s Agenda.
Mariano vowed to help in promoting and advancing the People’s Agenda within the Cabinet.
Taguiwalo said the People’s Agenda is not new. “We have been fighting for these for so long and we will continue to fight for these,” she said.
Representatives of Senators Grace Poe, Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis “Chiz” Escudero were also given copies of the People’s Agenda.
In his closing remarks, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said the People’s Agenda should be popularized among the people.