July 17, 2019
After the passage of a crucial UNHRC resolution on human rights the Philippines, the world will be watching how the SONA protests will turn out on Monday. Thousands are expected to march nationwide to denounce the 4th SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte. Repressive conditions, however, have been observed in many areas of the country, particularly those that are under Martial Law or are heavily militarized. Mass actions in these areas have been curtailed or subjected to increased harassment.
In Metro Manila, the center of protests will be Commonwealth Avenue, where thousands are expected to join the United People’s SONA, a broad event organized by different anti-Duterte groups. Participants have been warned by the police not to bring jackets and backpacks during the rally as a security precaution. Protesters see this as unreasonable and may only be intended to sow fear among the public.
Unlike the first two SONA’s of Duterte where activists were able to get close to Batasang Pambansa, rally organizers again chose the Commonwealth Avenue, several kilometers away, as their converging point. The organizers expect a generally peaceful yet militant mass action on Monday, with national sovereignty, human rights and the economy as key issues in the protest.
Activists have also warned of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by the regime. Fake news regarding the protest actions and rally organizers are expected to be on overdrive as SONA day approaches. This is a desperate ploy to dissuade people from coming out and joining protests. These are intended to obfuscate the message of the protesters. Also expected are false claims regarding the regime’s so-called achievements.
BAYAN calls on the Duterte regime to respect freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. The practice of harassing protesters, attacking human rights defenders and criminalizing dissent should stop immediately. The world will be watching how the Duterte regime upholds freedom of expression and right to peaceably assemble on Monday, during the State of the Nation Address. The people are intent on asserting their constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms in the face of an increasingly fascist and puppet regime. ###