New York City — On July 23, 2018 more than a hundred people led by the Malaya Movement rallied outside the Philippine Consulate General of New York to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA). Various individuals and groups, including BAYAN-USA, GABRIELA Philippines, Kabataan Alliance, Migrante USA, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Sige, Ugnayan Youth, and US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) delivered what they called the “People’s State of the Nation Address”, speaking out about the worsening human rights, economic and political crises under Duterte.
“We denounce the atrocities and crimes against humanity that the Philippine government continues to commit against its people. We denounce the continued suffering from the many effects of neocolonialism, globalization, and U.S. and Chinese imperialism,” said Terrenze Rienton, a working class migrant Filipino youth and organizer for Ugnayan Youth.
In a statement read at the gathering, imprisoned Filipina Senator Leila de Lima was quoted saying, “There is now a normalized economy of murder, a prevailing culture of impunity, and truth has become the first major casualty.”
“People are dying upon thousands under the guise of a drug war. Many are Filipino youth being killed in either police operations or by vigilante groups. The children of the Philippines are not spared in this so-called drug war,” said Bea Canete, a Leyte-born youth and member of Kabataan Alliance. Yet, Duterte continued to defend his deadly war on drugs during his 3rd SONA, defying criticism from human rights advocates and the international community.
Gary Labao of Migrante USA Organizing Committee spoke about the impact of Duterte’s tax reform law (TRAIN), “Due to the TRAIN law, people are suffering and being forced deeper into poverty and hunger because it increases the price of basic commodities, while the wages of the workers do not increase.” Despite Duterte’s claims during his SONA that the TRAIN law was helping poor families and seniors, inflation has soared to 5.2%, the highest in over five years.
Labao was also critical of the Philippine President’s neglect of migrants in the U.S., “Duterte has not done anything for Filipinos victimized by Trump’s immigration crackdown,” he continued.
Malaika Queaño, speaking on behalf of the Maranao people, rejected Duterte’s promises in his SONA to bring peace and autonomy in Mindanao and his claims of pursuing an independent foreign policy.
Pointing to the okir panels adorning the exterior of the Philippine Consulate, she asserted, “They would like the decoration of the Moro people, but more importantly they want the land of the Moro people. Just like there’s an economic basis for Martial Law, not only in Marawi, but in Mindanao, there is economic basis for the rehabilitation of Marawi, which has not consulted the Moro and the Maranao people.”
Queaño was referring to the unsolicited plan by a private consortium comprising a Filipino management company and Chinese companies to rehabilitate and develop Marawi City after its devastation last year in the war between the Philippine government and Islamic State-allied militants.
USPGG National Chair, Loida N. Lewis, further criticized Duterte’s capitulation to China, “Look what he has done to our oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea. China is almost succeeding in its claim that they own what is rightfully ours! He could possibly be the ultimate drug lord because he has done nothing to stop China from sending its drugs to the Philippines. Look at that drug shipment from China consigned to his son.”
While a handful of pro-Duterte supporters chanted, “We love Martial Law,” community activist and former political prisoner during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, Ramon Mappala, reminded the crowd that under Martial Law in the Philippines in the 1970s, over 40,000 anti-dictatorship activists – students, professors, professionals, along with members of the Liberal Party – were jailed.
Mappala said, “The same pattern is happening right now in the Philippines, where [Duterte] has already declared Martial Law in Mindanao and threatened to declare it in the whole archipelago.” He also drew comparisons between Marcos and Duterte’s strengthening of the military and police and their violations of human rights, including detaining dissidents on invalid or trumped up charges.
In the Philippines, more than 40,000 people mobilized for the People’s SONA in Manila, and thousands more mobilized in other regions.
“The real People’s State of the Nation are people uniting to resist the Duterte government. We saw the largest and broadest protests in the Philippines in recent years. That’s because – like under the Marcos dictatorship – resistance to fascist moves and struggle for democracy is once again uniting Filipinos from all walks of life, from different backgrounds and political camps,” said Bernadette Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “Duterte’s fascism is actually an indicator that the people’s united resistance is effective and gaining ground. Duterte is losing his popularity and is becoming more isolated and more desperate to cling to power.”
“As Filipinos and citizens of the United States, we must build the resistance movement to show that Duterte is not popular anymore. The Filipino people are sick and tired of his lies. It is only through unity as Filipino people abroad that we can resist this dictatorship until its fall,” said Chrissi Fabro, co-coordinator of Malaya Movement in the Northeast, to close out the rally.
Malaya Movement calls on people to continue to unite and strengthen the broadest protest movement against Duterte’s Dictatorship and to pressure the U.S. government to cut its military aid and political support to Duterte’s wars against his people.