Excited by dreams of change, thousands push for People’s Agenda

Raised fists for genuine change. (Photo by Gino Estella, June 29, 2016 / Bulatlat)
Raised fists for genuine change. (Photo by Gino Estella, June 29, 2016 / Bulatlat)

“The people are expecting, hoping for genuine change, but what is clear is that they could only achieve that through their strong mass movement.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – It was neither a protest rally nor a celebratory party, but the thousands that filled to bursting capacity the UP Diliman’s Film Center on June 29 were simultaneously in high spirits and firm in their commitment to fight for genuine change as they finalized what they call as the People’s Agenda.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the event marked the first time a multi-sectoral people’s movement at the national level submitted a comprehensive set of proposals and programs to the incoming Duterte administration.

The People’s Agenda includes a 15-point Program for Nationalist and Progressive Change and a more detailed Agenda embodying “doables,” which they hope the incoming Duterte administration will start doing on its first 100 days in office. These cover specific recommendations regarding peace and human rights, governance and democracy, foreign policy and sovereignty.

Leaders from different sectors and regions shared, during the summit, the results of their efforts in the past weeks to gather the different demands and issues of the people through various sectoral and regional consultations, meetings and conferences. They said the National Peoples’ Summit held in UP Diliman on June 29 was the culmination of those gatherings.

See: Groups frame 15-point agenda for Duterte administration

The agenda contained calls such as a stop to contractualization, swift and pro-worker resolution of labor disputes, controlling prices of basic commodities, and others.

Calls for genuine change to be handed to ‘Digong’ on July 1

Leaders of peoples’ organizations in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon held caravans, conducting short programs on certain designated stops in their urban centers, before joining their counterparts who are based in Metro Manila for the National Peoples’ Summit June 29 and a rally June 30 in Mendiola.

The attendees were a colorful mix — young and old, IPs and Christianized, poor and middle class. During the program in the People’s Summit, they joked and laughed at themselves at one point when they realized that indeed, at last, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is now at an end. And the incoming administration is professing “openness to alternatives from progressives,” as Bayan-Southern Tagalog spokesperson Diego Torres said.

The region’s contingent in the Summit presented their agenda through floats and other artistic depictions of their calls. Their farmers’ group presented their agenda through a scarecrow with a placard on which was written: “Isabatas ang Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill!” They also brought murals.

Outside the UP Film Center, throngs who could no longer enter the filled up center milled about at the lobby.

Ma Fe Vargas, a nun from the Missionary Sisters of Mary (MSM), told Bulatlat she went to the summit even without an invitation from the conveners when she heard something like this was to be held.

“I went here to promote the advocacy for peace, and to unite with our people especially with those being oppressed who are calling for justice.” She recently came from Caraga in Mindanao.

Back in Caraga, Vargas said, there are evacuees everywhere, composed mostly of indigenous peoples (IPs) and peasants. She hoped the Duterte administration will stop mining and military operations which are largely in IP areas in the mountains.

If mining were to be stopped, she believed militarization and harassment in IP communities might abate.

She expressed hopes that justice for the victims of military violence will be meted out under the Duterte administration.

Some contractual employees in the government and in the private sector also attended the Peoples’ Summit.

Salvador Carranza, a former unionist in a garments factory producing high-end men’s clothing for export, and a long-time officer of the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), an affiliate of Kilusang Mayo Uno, told Bulatlat that leaders of their member unions were at the Peoples Summit and would be at the rally in Mendiola on June 30.

“We want to ensure that the workers’ calls regarding ending contractualization, increasing the wages and instituting a national minimum wage would be included in the agenda we would hand to President Digong,” Carranza said at the sidelines of the Peoples’ Summit.

People inspired by hopes for change

Genasque Enriquez, leader of IP group Katribu, noted the inspired mood of the people who thronged the summit of progressives in UP. “They are dreaming of change,” he said.

He said gatherings like the Peoples Summit are significant as it encourages the people to freely discuss what’s on their mind, to craft proposals that could result in or lead to social change, and not just to ‘change’ coming out of politicians’ mouths.

Like other leaders of progressive organizations who went to the Peoples’ Summit, he welcomed the space for the peoples’ movement, which the Duterte administration announced it was providing.

“The people are expecting, hoping for genuine change, but what is clear is that they could only achieve that through their strong mass movement,” Enriquez said in Filipino.

During the summit, the People’s Agenda for Change – which contains the list of demands to Duterte – was handed over to members of the Duterte cabinet led by incoming Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano. They were joined by some members of both houses of Congress and the peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The Peoples Summit is “not just a one-day affair,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bayan. He said the People’s Agenda is crucial to the discussions and mobilizations on June 30 and beyond, including the upcoming State of the Nation Address of the President.

“We will rally around the People’s Agenda as we encourage the new administration to walk the extra mile for genuine change and a just peace,” Reyes said.

Participants to the summit believe that the Philippines, with its vast mineral and human resources, can be an economic power under a patriotic and pro-people leadership. In the economic field, the People’s Agenda calls on the Duterte administration to declare national industrialization “as the major strategy for Philippine economic development”.

They are also advancing a progressive social policy that ensures access to basic services such as free education and health services, mass housing, and social protection including adequate pensions.

Proposals for foreign relations include the adoption of an independent foreign policy, which asserts Philippine sovereignty and claims within its exclusive economic zone, as well as rejects US intervention and impositions such as the return of US bases under the Enhanced Defense Copperation Agreement. The participants hope that Duterte will chart a different course than the one taken by his predecessors who religiously followed US dictates.

In the field of governance, they support the fight against corruption and the adoption of pro-people fiscal and budget policies

They call for a law prohibiting and penalizing the appropriation, allocation and release of lump sum discretionary funds, and mandating instead line item budgeting and strict audit of regular and special funds. This is to abolish pork barrel system.

The participants also expressed support for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines. They demand that peace based on justice be achieved in this lifetime and for human rights to be upheld. ()

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