By Tonyo Cruz
As President Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), various media outlets have asked the public about what they hope to hear from the chief executive.
Dr. Jairus Cabajar didn’t mince words in his response: “That it would be his last.”
Through that tweet, Cabajar articulated the sentiment of a growing number of Filipinos who feel that we have had the longest, bloodiest, most mind-boggling, and economically difficult two years in recent memory.
Mind you, this is by no means a contrarian, extremist point of view. In the run-up to the SONA, Duterte has actually compelled a broad united front of political forces to mount a United People’s SONA denouncing Charter Change and condemning any new dictatorship.
The United People’s SONA would provide a stark counterpoint to Duterte’s own speech:
The Movement Against Tyranny, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Coalition for Justice and Tindig Pilipinas are going to march together.
The evangelicals of the Intercessors for the Philippines would be storming the heavens alongside Catholics from Sangguniang Laiko. They will pray for a truly accountable government and the protection of the fundamental rights and dignity of people.
Rise Up, the organization of mothers and wives of victims of extrajudicial killings, would be there too.
Also marching are concerned women and women’s groups that catapulted #BabaeAko to worldwide prominence as a foe of the misogynist president.
Remember the joint May 1 rally by the Kilusang Mayo Uno and Nagkaisa-TUCP? Expect another powerful turnout as other labor centers have signed up for the United People’s SONA. And lest we forget, also joining the march are the restive workers from NutriAsia, UniPak, Middleby, and other companies engaged in contractualization. The workers are going to tell the story of working-class families heavily burdened by new and higher taxes under Duterte’s TRAIN, and the rising prices of basic goods.
Expect indigenous peoples led by the Lumads to hold the president to account not only for the absence of peace in their ancestral domain. They will denounce the militarization and planned sellout of their ancestral domain, and also the continued closure and takeover of Lumad schools. Together with the Maranaos whose city has been divided among oligarchs for “rehabilitation” purposes, the Lumads present the undisguised face of Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao.
Fisherfolk and legal eagles would be taking turns denouncing Chinese invasion of our seas and islands, and the President’s refusal or inability to defend Philippine sovereignty and territory.
There will be many other sectors, professions, organizations and movements at the United People’s SONA – artists and journalists, lawyers and law students, the many formations of the dynamic and BS-resistant youth sector, transport workers and jeepney drivers, and families of overseas Filipino workers.
As of press time, there is yet no announcement of pro-Duterte rallies coinciding with his SONA. Maybe the ringleaders of Duterte Youth are now happy that their leader had been appointed that they find no reason to mount a show of force. Neither the PDP-Laban and the Hugpong have unveiled plans.
Perhaps an explanation for this is that President Duterte’s audience at the SONA is his rally. At the Batasang Pambansa, he would be surrounded by yes-men and women from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The oligarchs would be ther, too, as well as representatives from the Chinese and US embassies, and the chambers of commerce and business clubs.
Or that there’s no money left for a pro-Duterte SONA rally. Pinambili na ng billboards at tarpaulin para kina Bong Go at Harry Roque.
Or that the DDS can no longer mount a rally. The harsh effects of TRAIN, the mass killings, the treachery in the South China Sea, the coddling of incompetents, the fakeries and lies, and many other issues have slowly but surely pushed out many former Duterte supporters and into the warm embrace of the movements against tyranny.
We have no way of guessing and predicting what Duterte would claim would be the state of the nation. That’s for him to illustrate in his speech, with a little help from the Kimmy Dora director. Expect the opposition lawmakers to deliver a contra-SONA soon after.
The United People’s SONA is not out to debate with Duterte and his apologists on any of his possible claims. My understanding is that protests are going to be mounted to show to the nation and the world real situation and unvarnished truth under Duterte, in our own terms, and to dramatize the growing unity of people resisting his rule. Without the protests, Duterte and his sycophants would surely brag about being able to silence, scare, or crush critics. But most importantly, the United People’s SONA aims to tell the truth and inspire people to carry on the fight.
We have come a long way, friends. We come from various traditions, faiths, worldviews, philosophies, professions, regions, and stations in life. We have discovered that there are more things that unite us than those that divide us, and that unity is the order of the day amid brazen attempts to install a tyranny of a few. True, there are still many thorny and honest differences among and between us. But those are less important or less urgent right now.
On July 23, at an avenue named after a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good, we march together as a united people against a presidency that is such that some hope this SONA would really be his last.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz and check out my blog tonyocruz.com