‘Festival of Lies’: Thousands Protest SONA


Various anti-Arroyo groups today marched along Commonwealth Avenue to denounce what they call “a festival of lies” and to demand “immediate economic relief”.

Pulling a 21-foot effigy of a sinking ship, members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan marched from Tandang Sora Avenue to just beyond EVER Commonwealth to join other anti-Arroyo groups in a “People’s SONA”. The counter-SONA described the state of the nation as “a sinking ship with the captain even robbing its passengers”.

The giant effigy made by the artist group Ugat Lahi showed the hull of a sinking ship while President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flies away aboard a plane. The protest action along Commonwealth Avenue was joined by representatives of the United Opposition, Concerned Citizens Movement, Be not Afraid Movement, Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, UP Aware, Youth ACT Now, Philippine Nurses Association, Gloria Step Down Movement, Kubol Pag-Asa and other anti-Arroyo personalities such as former Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

Across the nation, protests were also held in various cities as part of the nationally-coordinated day of action. Provinces in the Bicol region are also set to launch a transport strike.

An international contingent of Filipino-Americans and foreign observers also attended the protest action.

“This is Arroyo’ s eighth SONA and the country’s situation is worse than ever. The grand promises of the past seven years have all been met with failure. The plight of the poor is the best proof of the failures of this government. Any claim of economic growth right now will be perceived as a big lie,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

And despite of the avowed focus of the SONA on pro-poor “social welfare programs”, Bayan remained unconvinced of their sincerity and viability.

“Mrs. Arroyo is responsible for plunging millions of Filipinos deeper into poverty through such policies as depressed wages, high taxes and the deregulation of vital industries such as oil and power. Mrs. Arroyo is responsible for aggravating rural poverty by her failure to implement genuine land reform. From the government’s own reckoning, about a third of the population live below the poverty line,” Reyes said.

Reyes said that the subsidy scheme for the poor derived from the Value Added Tax, one of the features of Arroyo’s social welfare program, is nothing more than “a grand deception aimed at deodorizing the Arroyo regime.”

“The subsidy scheme called Katas ng VAT does not provide any long-term solution because it is a dole out program. Second, the VAT itself is part of the problem because it continues to be a burden on the people, especially the poor. The VAT can never be a benign source of funds for the people,” Reyes said.

Bayan vowed to continue pressing for the scrapping of the VAT on oil and power and appealed to lawmakers gathered at the Batasang Pambansa to act swiftly for the interest of the consumers.(PinoyPress)

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