This year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) is the third under the Duterte administration. While the chief executive will no doubt use this opportunity to present the supposed achievements and the future promises of the national government before a national audience, We, the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa assert, that behind the facade of progress,development, peace and stability that the incumbent administration attempts to portray, the reality of inequality and the precarity of employment that continues to affect the working people of the country demonstrate the failure of the Duterte government to adopt and articulate a national framework that is pro-people and supportive of the working class.
What we see is that despite the rhetoric of change and claims by the incumbent administration to be for the people, the policies and practices that are detrimental to the interests of working people throughout the country remain in place. Contractualization for instance remains rampant despite the promises of the Duterte administration to clamp down on its practice. Indeed, the much vaunted win-win solution by DOLE is full of legal loopholes that continues to leave workers vulnerable and their rights to dignified and secured employment frustrated.
Another area of concern is the continuing rise of expenses for commodities and basic necessities, a product of the confluence of external factors and the impact of TRAIN. The disagreement between government technocrats and critics of TRAIN notwithstanding, the lack of meaningful action in response to the genuine concern of those affected by the price increase and eroding purchasing power betrays the lack of concern to the needs of the majority of the Philippine population.
GENERAL SANTOS CITY
Side by side with rising prices and precarious employment is the targeted assault on the poor and the vulnerable sectors in society. The continued war on drugs has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings, with victims predominantly poor. Oplan galugad on the other hand, results in the harassment of communities and the criminalization of the systemic issue of poverty by attacking the poor under the guise of ridding the streets of vagrants and unwanted elements in society. These heavy-handed and highly securitized operations obscures the fact that poverty is the primary condition for the rise in criminality and merely victimizes those who are already powerless and unable to assert their rights.
The failure of the incumbent administration to safeguard the concerns and interests of the broad majority are also evident in other areas. The utter disregard and lack of respect towards women as shown by the misogynist culture perpetuated by statements and actions of the President endangers the rights of women and undermines the important role they play in Philippine society. Duterte’s remarks and words give state sanction to the practices and conditions of domination that women are constantly subjected to.
Second, the continued connivance with foreign powers detrimental to the national interest risks compromising national sovereignty and the authority of the Filipino people in our own territory. The acceptance of loans from China at high interest rates threatens to bring the Philippine State at the mercy of foreign creditors and take crucial decisions on the economy away from Philippine hands. The unabashed seizure of islands and territory claimed by the Philippines and the refusal of the Duterte administration to assert our 2016 hague ruling victory is also another betrayal of the public trust as the Philippine State itself appears to be unwilling to defend or even assert the rights of Filipinos against Chinese aggression.
Instead of working towards addressing the key concerns of the majority of the working population, or attempting to defend Philippine sovereignty against foreign incursions, what we see is the continuous attempt by Duterte and his allies in government to monopolize political and economic power. The attempt to force federalism upon the Filipino population despite widespread and mounting opposition through the administration-dominated legislature, tactics involving the withholding of information on the proposed shift from the general public and the restricted scope of popular participation are examples of the flagrant abuse of power and the deliberate attempt to exclude the people from participating in this important discussion. The lack of transparent and inclusive participation on the question of federalism puts into question how the interests of the population, and more importantly, of entities such as the Bangsamoro and indigenous people’s will be genuinely represented in the attempts at amending the charter.
Contrary to the government’s assertion that it is the embodiment of change that the people aspire for, the actions and positions taken by the Duterte regime serve the interests of society’s powerful and privileged at every corner, with popular demands constantly ignored and undermined. Thus, for SENTRO, the only appropriate response to the continuous assault on the rights of society’s basic sectors and on the working class is the intensification of our mass struggle and campaigns against the Duterte regime. To this end, we stand together with our comrades in the other mass and social movements that likewise struggle against systemic injustice and oppression in opposition to Duterte’s attacks on our fundamental rights.
Our collective mobilization on the 23rd called the “United People’s SONA” counters the President’s address. It is essentially the people’s response and challenge to the government that continuously fails to deliver on its promises. We will stand together in demanding that the popular demands and concerns of the people be at the center, both of national discussions and government action. The 23rd will be historic not because of the President’s SONA, but rather because of the fact that the different progressive organizations stand united as one in the current struggle for our fundamental rights.
Mabuhay ang Uring Manggagawa!