PROTESTS in Bacolod City will greet the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City Monday, July 23.
In the morning, various groups led by citizens’ coalition Paghimud-os Negros will stage “Bagting contra ChaCha” at the Capitol Park and Lagoon, 9 a.m.
The group, who will launch the “no to ChaCha (charter change)” campaign, is calling for solutions to address the issues affecting the nation.
The march will be highlighted by “Bagting contra ChaCha,” a symbolic ringing and raising of voices against charter change and Federalism.
Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela, co-convenor of Paghimud-os Negros, said charter change presents two problems.
“It provides opportunities for the insertion of dangerous or self-serving provisions while distracting us from addressing our more urgent problems, and it is meant to enable a permanent, virtually non-reversible shift to Federalism, a system we are not ready for, and one that actually proposes more government and not less,” he said.
“If not ChaCha, what? Let us see first if the Bangsamoro Organic Law can solve the problem, which has been the main reason for pushing Federalism. If it does, then only simple amendments of the 1987 Constitution may be proposed in the future to address other specific concerns, without opening up the entire Constitution to dangerous revisions,” he said.
In the meantime, amendments to the Local Government Code will address the need for Local Government and local community empowerment, he said.
“This is the more prudent course to take, and one that is not controversial and definitely less divisive,” he said.
In the afternoon, progressive groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros will march from two kickoff points - Lupit Church and Capitol Park and Lagoon – to Bacolod City public plaza.
They will also burn the effigy of Duterte dubbed as “Dutertemonyo.”
Christian Tuayon, Bayan-Negros chairperson, said they are not expecting anything from the president.
“We will hold our own version, the People’s Sona, in the streets today and we are calling for the ouster of the President,” he said.
“Tama na, sobra na, wakasan na! (Enough, this should end)” Tuayon added.
Some of the local officials in Negros Occidental expect Duterte to talk about Federalism, the progress on his war against drugs and corruption during his third SONA.
Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez, who is the chair of the House committee on housing and urban development, said he expects the president to tackle the needs of the housing sector.
"I hope he includes the proposal to unlock government lands for urban development especially the needs of the housing sector," he said.
For his part, First District Representative Melecio Yap Jr. said he thinks “the president will tell us about the Bangsamoro Basic Law and will give us more guidance about how his administration addresses insurgency.”
The president is also expected to tell us about Federalism, he added.
Third District Board Member Emmanuel Frederick Ko said that based on news reports, the president is expected to have a shorter SONA.
"We know when the president talks, it comes from the heart, so usually, it is long. Maybe we expect it to be shorter this time. We also expect that he will talk about charter change, Federalism, and Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to bring peace and progress in Mindanao," Ko said.
Himamaylan City Mayor Agustin Ernesto Bascon said the president should focus, on the coming days, on giving emphasis on how the lives of the Filipino people would be uplift. “We hope more projects from this administration that would give emphasis to the basic services especially the provinces like ours.”
Bascon said that under the Duterte administration, the Himamaylan-Tayasan road construction is already realized and is now under contraction.
"Once completed, this road will take us about 35 to 40 minutes to Negros Oriental. This is a 25-kilometer road project,” Bascon said.
Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia also assumed that Duterte will tackle charter change in his address.
“The charter change issue is his passion to see the Philippines become a federal state or federal republic,” he said.
He added it’s also expected that the president will report the administration’s major thrust on criminality, anti-illegal drugs campaign, graft and corruption and the implementation of infrastructure projects.
Leonardia noted that Bacolod received several projects through the “Build, Build, Build” program of the National Government.
Councilor Caesar Distrito said he is expecting that the President, this time, will focus more on economic measures and policy to protect the country from the ongoing trade wars between the US and China.
“Measures that will help the people minimize their agony and sufferings due to tax burdens, higher prices, and inflation,” he said.
In Manila, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is expecting over 10,000 protesters during the third SONA, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said.
Albayalde said, just like Duterte’s previous SONA, there would be no barbed wires and container vans which are being used by the previous administration, especially during such occasion, as a defense in case protesters become unruly.
Albayalde said militant group leaders have promised they will police their ranks and ensured they will hold their programs and picket protest in a peaceful and orderly manner.
He said the over 6,000 policemen who will be deployed to ensure the security and peace and order during the Sona were reminded to impose maximum tolerance.
The policemen will be augmented by at least 600 soldiers who will be fielded by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), personnel from the PNP-Special Action Force, the force multipliers from the barangay and the Quezon City Local Government as well as from the non-government organization.
Albayalde said they are yet to monitor any possible threat against the event but intelligence and information gathering continues. (with reports from SunStar Philippines)