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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Filipinos Welcome President Duterte’s First ‘State of the Nation Address’ with Rally for Peace Based on Justice

Demonstrators call for the full implementation of the People’s Agenda for Change. Photo by: Julie Jamora

NEW YORK – Filipinos came together this past Friday, July 22 in Woodside, Queens to mark the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Organized by BAYAN USA Northeast, a progressive alliance of Filipino organizations in New York and New Jersey, the rally reflected the “SONA ng Bayan” or “People’s State of the Nation Address” that happens annually in the Philippines. Expressing support for the Duterte administration’s pro-people reforms, the New York rally carried the message, “President Duterte, the Struggle Continues! Achieve Peace Based on Justice in the Philippines!”
Much like the Duterte administration so far, this year’s SONA ng Bayan was markedly different from others in the past. Featuring cultural performances and speeches, the rally expressed hope for change under the Duterte administration and called for the full implementation of the “People’s Agenda for Change.” Compiled by BAYAN Philippines after a long consultation process with different sectors of Philippine society, which involved the convening of thousands of Filipinos throughout the country, the People’s Agenda for Change presents a progressive and nationalist platform for the first 100 days of the Duterte administration in five key areas: economics, social policy, national sovereignty and foreign policy, peace and human rights, and governance and corruption. This Agenda was personally delivered by BAYAN activists and received by the president in Malacañang Palace during his first day in office.
Photo by: Devyn Manibo
Among these demands, the demonstrators highlighted the importance of the resumption of peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. “The fight for peace must be grounded in the interests of the Filipino people lest it not be peace at all but pacification,” said Nina Macapinlac, Northeast Regional Coordinator of BAYAN USA. “We must address the root causes of the armed conflict [in the Philippines] that are embedded in the basic conditions of Filipino society, which is one very much beholden to imperialist and local class elite interests.” 
Different sectoral groups delivered speeches welcoming the pro-people measures of the President and calling on him to fully address their concerns. Gary Labao of Migrante NY expressed support for the President, especially his pronouncement that working abroad should be “optional and not a necessity” through the creation of jobs in the Philippines. 
Labao pointed out that the only solution to the economic problems of the Philippines is to implement genuine national industrialization and genuine land reform to end the vicious cycle of “import-dependency and export oriented” economic orientation. National industrialization can create more jobs at home and put a stop to the Filipinos going abroad as export products for human labor and slavery to other nations.
The SONA ng Bayan took place as the first follow-up event to the New York “People’s Summit,” a community forum of local Filipinos that took place in Queens on Sunday, July 10. The Summit discussed the national situation of the Philippines and presented the People’s Agenda for Change. Participants discussed their own conditions as overseas Filipinos in the United States and identified issues that they would like addressed, ranging from free education for youth and students to pension assistance and genuine representation for migrant workers. The group resolved to hold the Duterte government accountable to its promises through continued advocacy and education. 
Cultural performance by Anakbayan NJ depicts the struggle of the indigenous Lumad against US imperialism. Photo by: Julie Jamora
With more than 30,000 people at the SONA ng Bayan march outside Batasang Pambansaand numerous SONA ng Bayan events outside the Philippines like the New York rally, the Filipino people are vigilantly optimistic for peace and unity in the Philippines. As President Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address, “All of us want peace, not the peace of the dead, but the peace of the living.” The path to such a just and lasting peace will not be easy and it will require the help of all Filipinos–whether at home or abroad–to come together and ensure that the administration truly serves the interests of the people.

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