Militant leaders pre-SONA meeting with Duterte: ‘issues murkier than clear’

Photo courtesy of Kodao Productions

By Joey Natividad

CITY OF NAGA – Militant leaders in Manila are not happy after meeting with President Duterte on Tuesday, July 18 regarding the upcoming SONA on Monday and the militants’ concern for the President to address 20 urgent people’s demands.

The President is hell-bent on doing his way rather than address the militants’ view about urgent people’s demands.

BAYAN vows more protest rallies to counter the President’s surging militarization policies.

In the Bicol Region, Bicol sectoral organizations and militant groups are planning to hold rallies during the SONA in various places, while delegates will go to Batasan to join their counterparts in Metro-Manila.

Martial Law extension

According to BAYAN representatives during the Tuesday meeting, on the issue of Martial Law, Duterte is bent to extend it, but he said he is not targetting the Left. The Mindanao activists said that that was not reality on the ground. They related how Martial Law is being used to militarize communities and attack Lumad schools. Several communities have been displaced as a result. Lumad leaders showed the President pictures and other documentation.

Stalled peace talks

On the issue of the stalled peace talks with the NDFP, the President echoed the line of his security cluster that there should first be a prolonged ceasefire before there could be any talk of reforms.

According to militant leaders, they reiterated their position that the peace talks must continue because it is in the interest of the people and that the surest way to achieve peace is through socio-economic and political reforms.

It appears that the fate of the talks and the people’s desire for a just peace will again be held hostage by the ceasefire issue, BAYAN analyzed.

Militarization of communities

The President gave no commitment on the issue of militarization of communities, saying that this was a reality in the ongoing civil war. For our part, a condition of extended Martial Law can only mean that military abuses and attacks will increase.

Uncertainties in Duterte policies and commitments

While there remain openings and agreements in principle on several issues, these will still require firm government commitment and militant struggle by the people.

During the meeting, the leaders said they sought to find common ground on the issue labor contractualization, free tuition for State Universities and Colleges, land reform and the issue of destructive mining.

There is no clear indication that the President will fulfill his pledge of upholding an independent foreign policy by abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement any time soon. Meanwhile, he was responsive to calls for the release of elderly and sickly political prisoners and received personal letters and appeals form them.

SONA 2017 rallies

The militants said they have informed the President of the upcoming SONA rallies. He said he will not stop these and will allow protesters to air their demands near Batasan.

The sectoral leaders thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for taking time to meet with Bayan leaders in Malacanang last July 18, 2017.

“We sought a meeting to inform the President of the planned nationwide SONA protest actions on July 24 and to relay to him 20 urgent people’s demands. The meeting lasted for nearly two hours,” said BAYAN.

The BAYAN delegation consisted of reprsentatives from workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, Mindanao activists and progressive lawmakers from the Makabayan coalition.

Unlike past meetings, the atmosphere was somewhat tense, more serious and revealed glaring differences on major issues, said BAYAN after evaluating the President’s meeting with them.

More rallies and protest actions

After the meeting, BAYAN vows to continue the SONA rallies, saying “it was clear why there should be nationwide mass protests during the SONA. The people must persevere in the fight for genuine change.”

The SONA rally will see huge delegations from Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila, as well as delegations from Mindanao. Protests will be conducted in almost every urban center in the country, from Ilocos to General Santos.

On July 23, participants for the SONA rally will begin arriving in Quezon City and hold vigils near Commonwealth Avenue.

On July 22, BAYAN is calling on the people to gather at Batasan to protest the Congress special session to railroad the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. [BicolToday.com]

Posted by on July 22, 2017. Filed under Nation,Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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