People’s SONA Unites Filipinos Across the U.S. Against Duterte Dictatorship
President Duterte’s staged, scripted and directed State of the Nation Address–this time by romantic-comedy film director Joyce Bernal–was a predictable sequel to the President’s previous SONAs, stating the same tired lies about an economy on the rise with the success of his Build, Build, Build, infrastructure projects and TRAIN law. These delusions contrast sharply with the daily reality most Filipinos already know and feel: the Philippines is a country in economic and political turmoil. Duterte’s Presidency is wrought with corruption, deception, death and destruction all leading toward a full-fledged dictatorship; all Duterte has left to do is change the Constitution to extend his term, and to impose martial law on the whole country. Across the U.S., Filipinos and all those opposed to the tyranny of the Duterte administration joined together in a historic United People’s SONA responding to the call from the Philippines, many under the banner of the MALAYA Movement: U.S. Movement Against the Killings and Dictatorship, and for Democracy in the Philippines.
Though filled with theatrics, Duterte’s SONA itself was upstaged by yet another forced removal of a political opponent: the ousting of then House Speaker Alvarez and the institution of a new House Speaker, the infamous Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Duterte’s political motives are clear: eradicate the opposition and replace them with like-minded corrupt individuals in order to consolidate his power. It also shows the rottenness of the politicians jocking for power while the nation starves. This in-fighting within the administration is contrast to the unity shown by the various opposition and people’s movements against Duterte’s tyranny.
The unholy alliance of Duterte, Arroyo and Marcos, the three most brutal and corrupt regimes in Philippine history, will only bring the political and economic crisis of the Philippines to an unprecedented level.
“The Philippine remains trapped in dynasties and dictatorship. It is our collective duty to stand for democracy, to stand as one Filipino community, para tayong lahat ay Malaya,” stated Elaine Bernal, a college professor and convenor of the MALAYA Movement, at the Los Angeles People’s Procession for the Poor march.
Duterte’s popularity ratings are sinking with each dictator-like move he makes such as his militarist approach to the drug war, martial law in Mindanao and Oplan Kapayapaan. His machismo-fascist attacks on women and children have launched an international #BabaeAko movement against him. The appointment of Arroyo is another slap in the face to all those Filipinos who experienced her reign of terror under Oplan Bantay Laya I & II, her failed attempt to rid the Philippines of the New People’s Army (NPA) which instead targeted activists, human rights defenders, peasants, and church people. The past sounds all too familiar with the present.
Duterte’s claim to be concerned with “human lives” is quite the opposite and despite the international scrutiny he says that it is “far from over,” and will be “as relentless and chilling, as the day it began.”
“There have been over 20,000 extra-judicial killings in drug war, and other killings of activists, priests, mayors and even loiterers now, and it’s spreading to other parts of Asia in their drug wars too. The fight to save the Philippines is also the frontlines of the fight to save the global system of human rights,” stated David Borden, executive director of StopTheDrugWar.org who attended the protest action in front of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C.
“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 who attended the New York action in front of the Philippine Consulate.
Economic troubles amongst the majority of people will only increase due to Duterte’s tax reform TRAIN law, which has only increased taxes for the poor, while cutting taxes for corporations, and in effect also raising the prices of basic commodities. In addition, the daily minimum wage remains stagnant, and thousands of layoffs due to ENDO or “End of Contract” have given workers no option but to conduct strikes in NutriAsia, Jollibee, PLDT and Coca-Cola to name a few.
“Duterte promised to end contractualization, but the workers are still being victimized by these practices. In fact DOLE has already ordered to stop contractualization to some companies but it still continues, that’s why workers are on strike,” stated Gary Labao, Chairperson of Migrante New York. “Duterte is not doing anything to protect the overseas Filipino workers. Even in the US Duterte has not done anything for the Filipinos victimized by Trump’s immigration crackdown,” Labao continued. Filipinos, even greencard holders, are not immune to the mistreatment by the border control.
“I am here to also demand justice for Jerome Aba who was a victim of Duterte-Trump collusion to hide and cover up what’s happening in the Philippines. It is our duty here in the U.S. to shed light on the human rights violations in the Philippines that are being paid for by our U.S. tax dollars,” said Pam Tau Lee Chairperson of ICHRP, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines who attended the action in San Francisco. The U.S. has given more than $137 million in military aid which includes funding for the drug war and increased militarization in the Philippines.
The success of MALAYA Movement’s launch of a United People’s SONA in 8 major cities: New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles exhibited the growing movement against the fascist Duterte administration in the United States. Let us further strengthen our unity and broaden our movement calling on all Filipinos and allies to direct their energy into cutting the U.S. military aid that funds the drug war and extrajudicial killings and continue to raise awareness against the fascist Duterte administration!
MALAYA will continue to grow as long as Duterte continues down the path towards dictatorship, and we will continue to fight until there is peace, freedom and true democracy in the Philippines.
“We stand in solidarity to call for all of our communities to join together- in the U.S, in the Philippines, to build and most importantly, rebuild our communities for our collective survival,” proclaimed Dr. Anna Guevarra, Board of Directors of CIRCA PINTIG in Chicago.
MALAYA: US Movement Against Killings and Dictatorship and for Democracy in the Philippines. As our name indicates, MALAYA (Filipino for “free”) seeks not only to broaden our opposition from the U.S. to fascism, but also to broaden U.S.-based support for the cause of freedom and democracy in the Philippines. For more information, visit www.malayamovement.com. For more photos visit us on Facebook @MalayaMovement