Fil-Am groups hold rally, rate Duterte’s first year in office

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Various groups criticize PH president for lack of commitment to promises

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office on June 30, 2016, and Filipinos around the world have mixed feelings about the controversial leader’s first year in office.

On Monday, July 24, nearly 50 students, social justice activists and religious leaders gathered in front of the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles to address Duterte’s track record as he surpasses one year as president.

Called the “People’s State of the Nation Rally and Report Card for Duterte’s First Year,” the groups critiqued Duterte’s administration and condemned its handling of several national issues.

The rally was a part of a national movement in which cities across the U.S. and internationally held their own People’s State of the Nation Rally to call attention to many of the Duterte administration’s “unfulfilled promises.”

There was an emphasis on the Duterte administration’s handling of the illegal drug war, the recent extension of martial law in Mindanao and the increased militarization amid the stall of the peace talks between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“People were very hopeful for change, but what has really changed?” Deputy Secretary General of BAYAN USA Nikole Cababa told the Asian Journal. “We still see abject poverty, low wages and contractualization, people being pushed out of the country…and at the same time, we’re seeing this extension of martial law which has led to a lot of human rights violations.”

Cababa added that Duterte “should take a note in the history books,” in that martial law is widely condemned by people all over the globe. She also said that social justice organizations, like BAYAN USA, encourage Duterte — and all world leaders — to explore fighting terrorism through socio-economic reform, like addressing poverty and the need for social services.

The rally began with the diverse group of young Fil-Ams holding colorful signs and several chants, which were met with supportive car honks from drivers driving along the adjacent Wilshire Blvd.

One sign, in particular, was a blown up mock report card for Duterte, which criticized his handling of many foreign and domestic issues, including education, housing, the drug war, contractualization and more.

The rally grew as the speakers voiced their concerns for the growing tensions in the Philippines, with a focus on socio-economic reform, especially poverty and education. Annalou Lingat, vice chair of ANAKBAYAN LA spoke about the lack of education reform and stressed the importance of public programs and affordable education.

In 2013, the Philippine Department of Education added two more years to the country’s 10-year basic education system, implementing the K-12 system, widely implemented throughout the globe. Educators, parents and students have petitioned to have this system revoked, calling it “unfair” and a “catastrophe,” according to a petition sent to the Philippine Supreme Court.

“Under this new education system, it’s much harder to gain access to quality education, forcing many Filipinos to settle for lower wage jobs or even make the hard decision to find jobs abroad. The Duterte administration should be able revive a free, accessible education for all.

The rally was hosted by BAYAN USA Southern California, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHROP) Southern California Network and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) Southern California.

Filipino youth and student organization ANAKBAYAN and Filipino women’s organization GABRIELA USA also joined in to voice their concerns over the president’s lack of attention on the ongoing human rights abuses.

“Human rights are still violated in the country right now,” Cervas told the Asian Journal after the rally. “We still have over 400 political prisoners who were imprisoned, in the first place, for trumped up charges. They were arrested because of their political beliefs and for fighting for a more just and free Philippines.”



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