Ilocos groups urge citizens to join people’s SONA


CANDON CITY — Peasant, fisherfolk, human rights defenders and youth organizations in the Ilocos region urge everyone to join the protest action on Monday, July 23 in Vigan City and be witnesses to the true state of the nation.

Peasant, fisherfolk, human rights defenders and youth organizations in the Ilocos region urge everyone to join the protest action on Monday, July 23 in Vigan City and be witnesses to the true state of the nation. Photo by KImberlie Ngabit-Quitasol

On July 23, President Rodrigo Duterte is set to deliver his third State of the Nation Address (SONA). But progressive organizations in the Ilocos region like in other parts of the country will hold what they call the people’s SONA.

Antonino Pugyao, chairperson of Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) said that under the Duterte administration the people continue to suffer from state fascism, poverty, lack of decent jobs and low wages. He added that two years after, there is still no clear program for genuine agrariam reform.

Pugyao reiterated that the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (train) Law has worsened the already sorry state of peasant farmers.

“Ever since the implementation of the Train law, the price of basic needs like petroleum, gasoline and sugar has greatly affected the peasant farmers who have been wallowing in poverty for a long time,” said Pugyao.

Pugyao called on peasant farmers and other sectors of society to unite and work together to break the bondage of poverty that continue to afflict them.

“We have to unite to fight the tyranny of the Duterte administration. Nobody can break the chains of poverty that has bounded us for a long time but ourselves,” he said.

Lourdes Doctolero of Timek Ken Namnama ti Babasit a Mangalap (Timek), a fisherfolk organization in the Ilocos region said that small fishefolk are among those who suffer from poverty and government neglect. She said that small fisher folk cannot live decent lives because they cannot have enough capital to compete with large fishing vessels much more foreign fishing vessels.

Doctolero said that even government have failed to provide services or programs to assist them. “Our unity and collective action is our last resort,” she said.

Doctolero said Timek will join the SONA protest on Monday to demand protection for small fisherfolk against foreign fishing boats intruding into the West Philippine Sea. They will also call for the strict implementation of environmental laws to protect water bodies.

Mary Ann Gabayan, Secretary General of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) said cases of human rights violations that include harassments, death threats, trumped up charges and political villification continue in the region. She said that even priests are not spared.

It can be recalled that priests of the Iglesia Filipina Independiete received death threats through text messages in June.

Sherwin De Vera, an environmental activist and journalist and other activists are facing trumped up charges in the courts.

“We condemn the fascism of the Duterte administration as we call on everyone to join the fight against tyranny,” Gabayan said.

Lea Grace Alfiler, chairperson of Anakabayan – Ilocos said that the youth in the region mostly come from peasant families who suffer the same poverty and human rights violations along with their communities. But on top of this, she said they are also deprived of their right to education.

Alfiler said that education is not really free as the Duterte administration claims. She said that state universities and colleges still collect miscelleneous fees.

Alfiler added that students have experienced violations of their democratic rights in schools. She cited campus media repression as among the common experiece.

Alfiler said that youth in communities continue to suffer human rights violation due to military operations of the 81st Division of Infantry Batallion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the region.

“The youth must unite, resist and fight for their rights and work together with other oppressed sectors,” Alfiler said.


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