Last Monday’s SONA rally was great. We had a good turn out, much higher than the police estimate of 7,000. I think the mob was between 10,000 to 13,000, definitely much bigger than last year’s. The weather was also very cooperative. It didn’t rain that hard, and most of the time we had cloudy skies which is always a welcome condition for rallies.
We hit the streets at around 5:00am, yes that early. To be fair, there were folks who were at the rally site much earlier, like 4:30 am.
At around 8am, it started to rain, but luckily for us the rains just passed. We were able to preserve the effigy built by Ugat Lahi. It was a two-piece effigy, one of a sinking ship and the other of Gloria Arroyo flying away on a plane.
Commonwealth Avenue is larger now than it was last year. I counted nine lanes in some parts of it. That’s huge. When we were marching towards the rally site, we were blocked by the police at the EVER Gotesco Mall, in violation of an earlier agreement that we could hold the rally past EVER and nearer to the St.Peter’s church.
After some negtiations, we were able to march forward to the rally site. We filled up the entire 9 lines, and folks were really standing shoulder to shoulder.
The program had two parts, the earlier Bayan program and the PEOPLE’S SONA. Grace Poe Lamanzares gave a stirring speech that connected to many people at the rally site.
There were also performances form Chikoy Pura, Jess Santiago, rappers from Bayan USA and rappers from the Anakbayan chapter in Malabon! The rap group from Anakbayan-Malabon was particularly interesting, because they were community youth aged 15-16 and were part of a workshop organized by Alay, a San Francisco based youth organization on exposure here in the Philippines. The seven Anakbayan members performed on stage for the first time, in front of an audience of thousands. They were awesome.
Who else was at the rally? I saw former DOTC secretary Josie Lichauco, former VP Teofisto Guingona, AMRSP chair for women, Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB., the Philippine Nurses Association, Adel Tamano of the United Opposition, Rez Cortez of the FPJ group, and the thousands of ordinary workers, farmers, community folk and residents of Commonwealth who turned up to wathe and hear of the real state of the nation.
Unlike in a previous rally, we didn’t broadcast Arroyo’s SONA over the public address system. Only some of us with radios attempted to listen through the whole speech. I know I couldn’t sit through it all. What struck me was her effort to really make it appear that she cares. She kept repeating, “Nag-aalala ako para sa mga magsasaka….sa trabahador, sa nanay….sa estudyante… sa OFW”. Ewww… Her SONA had all the sincerity of her “I’m sorry” speech at the height of the Garci scandal last 2005.
Arroyo also spoke lengthily about the VAT and how keeping it is helpful for the poor. Duh? The poor have been carrying the burden of VAT on oil and power for more than two years now and for what? Some P500 one-time subsidy for electricty? The poor have paid more in terms of VAT than they ever received in terms of any subsidy. Arroyo says that to help the poor, we have to continue taxing them with the VAT. So this is what she meant by “nag-aalala ako para sa mga manggawa, estudyante, OFW…” . She cares for us enough to see us die slowly from oppressive taxes and high prices.
The rally ended past 5:00pm.That meant we were in the streets for a good 12 hours that day. After the rally, we all headed home to the Bayan office on board the 10-wheeler truck. It was sort of a Bayan tradition, riding the truck on our way home (though for some it was more of a necessity since it saves them transpo fare). There was like more than 50 of us on board the truck.
We thank the media for covering the event, some of them being there as early as 2:00 am.
We thank all the allies and friends who supported the activity in one way or another, including those who contributed food!
For our take on the Arroyo SONA, visit www.bayan.ph and check out our news releases and articles.