delegation included BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr,
former Representative Neri Colmenares. Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos
Zarate, Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao, Rep. Sarah Elago
fo Kabataan, Jerome Adonis, KMU Secretary General, Antonio
Flores of KMP, Gabriela sec gen Joms Salvador, Lumad leaders
Michelle Campos and Eufemia Cullamat, and Mindanao activists led
by Sheena Duazon of BAYAN SMR. We were joined by NAPC Convenor
Liza Maza who helped arrange the meeting.
President Duterte’s meeting with Bayan leaders ahead of the SONA
statement by BAYAN
July 19, 2017
We thank 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.
The Bayan delegation consisted of representatives 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. After the meeting, it was clear why there
should be nationwide mass protests during the SONA. The people must
persevere in the fight for genuine change.
After a brief introduction,
we went straight to the issue of Martial Law. The President is bent on
extending it. We have consistently opposed it. He said that it was not
intended to target 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.
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. We reiterated our 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.
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
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, we 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.
We again 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.
After the meeting, we
returned to Mendiola to report the results to the Mindanao workers and
other sectors who were camped-out since Monday. We would have wanted
to bring more good news to them, but such was not the case.
From the foregoing
discussion – with Martial Law’s extension under way and the people’s
economic conditions worsening – the people are more than ever
justified in waging militant struggle for change. We are determined to
further expand people’s resistance to the anti-people and
anti-national policies of the regime.
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, we are calling
on the people to gather at Batasan to protest the Congress special
session to railroad the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao.