By Vanne Elaine Terrrazola, Chito Chavez, and Analou De Vera
The street protests outside the Batasang Pambansa were generally peaceful when President Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address a little past 4 p.m. on Monday, July 24.
Along Commonwealth Avenue, some 11,000 people marched to bring their sentiments to the attention of the President.
Quezon City Police District (QCPD) chief Guillermo Eleazar said the mass actions were generally peaceful as was last year, attributing it to the earlier arrangements and meetings held with leaders of the groups.
“Communication was open between the QCPD and the groups,” he said.
According to the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (QCDRRMO), as of 4 p.m., there were some 8,500 members of leftist and other cause-oriented groups, while about some 2,500 were from groups supporting President Duterte.
Eleazar said that while there were no threats of violence, they separated the groups to avoid any untoward incidents.
There were around 6,500 police officers deployed to secure the Batasan area.
Also, some 200 policemen from Region 4A were sent to augment security force.
Members of militant group BAYAN from Metro Manila and nearby provinces had started gathering as early as 7 a.m. at the Elliptical Road and Commonwealth Avenue and marched to the Batasan building starting 10 a.m.
At 2 p.m., the groups met with their fellow protesters from the University of the Philippines at the St. Peter’s Church before continuing towards the Quezon City Polytechnic University where authorities, reportedly following a dialogue, had set up their protest area some 300 meters away from the Batasang Pambansa south gate.
Five-hundred meters away from the militant groups was the area allotted for supporters of President Duterte, who were mostly from Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD NECC).
Unlike the protesters, the supporters came in small groups.
Bobby Brillante, MRRD NECC spokesperson, said they came from local chapters in the NCR, and Cainta, Rizal.
Militant groups who marched towards Commonwealth Avenue carried placards with calls to resume peace talks, end to martial law in Mindanao, ending contractualization and provide free housing to the poor as among the major issues.
Several Kadamay leaders dubbed their protest action as the “Araw ng Sona ng Bayan’’ insisting the government to accord the right of the poor to free housing.
Also along Elliptical Road, hundreds of farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and Mindanao staged a protest program in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) central office airing the list of their grievances against the president in his first year in office revisiting the plight of farmers.
The number of protesting farmers who joined the march towards Batasan Pambansa merging with other protesters said the government failed to act on the plea of the farmers who they claimed to be the poorest among the country’s sector.
Protest leader and Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao criticized the government’s failure to address the plight of the struggling Filipino farmers around the country.
Casilao added that cases of harassment and human rights violations on farmers have steadily increased pointing to the current administration as the one liable for the death of 70 farmers and agricultural leaders.
In Manila, pro-Duterte suppoters gathered in Mendiola to express their support for the President.
At least 30 members of Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIP), under the scorching heat, reaffirm their support to the President’s programs on economic reforms, corruption, and peace and stability.
“If I will grade the president, I think I will give him 85 (percent). Why? May political will sya. Pag sinabi nya, ginagawa nya. May vision sya for the country, (He has political will. He does what he says; he has a vision)” said LIP Secretary General Professor Melvin Mitra.
Mitra said that some of the members of the administration could not adjust on its policies.
“What this country needs is a radical change, hindi pwedeng katulad ng dati na bina-baby. May mga tao sa inappoint nya na hindi makasabay sa gusto nya,” he said.
“Kaya kung mapapansin, merong mga tinatanggal dahil sa perception of graft and corruption, nababagalan sya,” he added.
Mitra also brushed aside some criticisms on the administration’s brutal war on illegal drugs, saying the problem is already a menace that needs to be solved immediately.