Velez: A Sona from the people this time

THE State of the Nation Addresses (Sona) in the past tried to conjure an image of a leader journeying with the people heading towards a promised land.

Gloria Arroyo has her “bangkang papel” where Payatas children set off paper boats carrying their wishes.

Noynoy Aquino has that “daang matuwid” where the country is corruption-free.

But beyond those imagery and rhetoric, promises and the promised land remain a mirage.

“Bangkang papel” drowned as Gloria created a “strong republic” that was only strong in amassing alleged payoffs and Hello Garci and much stronger in silencing journalists and activists.

Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” got washed away by Yolanda, and the road went wayward chasing rehabilitation funds and pork barrel while killing lumads and driving lumad children away from schools.

For over a decade we hear their Sona speeches, statistics and showcase of success that meant nothing to the poor, the farmers and lumads.

The true state of the nation goes beyond their words, it lies in the state of the people who are stuck in a state controlled by oligarchy.

But on Monday, people seem eager to a Sona that will be delivered by the new president Rodrigo Duterte who simply said this “ride will be rough, but join me just the same.”

People have been drawn to his message that “Change is coming.”

Yet this is a challenge on how he will bring that change.

Here in Mindanao, a group of Lumads, farmers and activists, around 3,000 of them, embarked on their ManilakbayansaSona to bring to Duterte their calls for change. Literally, they spell out their calls in the word CHANGE.

C- Cancel anti-people programs, such as open-pit mining, labor contractualization.

H-Health and social services.

A-Address the root cause of conflict by resuming peace talks.

N-National industrialization as foundation for national development. G-Genuine agrarian reform.

E-Education that is relevant and accessible in nation building and the suspension of the K-12 education.

The Manilakbayan has this appeal to the first Mindanawon president: “As people from Mindanao, we have lived through generations of being marginalized and oppressed, our lands plundered and our kin lost because of past governments that waged war against us.

We appeal to President Duterte to allow us near the Batasang Pambansa to express our common hope for justice and peace for Mindanao and for the whole Philippines.”

The President opened the gates of Malacañang to activists during the inaugural to talk with them about change. He promised to do the same in the Sona.

There will be no effigy burning, but instead there will be a march for hope of change.

The ride has begun. Sasama kayo?
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