Protests across the Philippines as Duterte gives annual State of the Nation Address

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte gave his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last night, marking the midway-point of his term - while protesters took to the streets outside of the Philippines House of Representatives to present an alternative SONA.

The protesters marched along Commonwealth Avenue as the United People's SONA, made up of a variety of opposition figures from the Philippines, including former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Central to the protest this year were issues of eroding democracy, sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, and Duterte's handling of the Philippines relationship with China.

In the lead-up to the event, Sereno said "We must remind the President that he is not above God, the people, nor the Constitution, and that he is no king. His is the supreme duty to uphold and preserve, and not destroy the Constitution."

This year marked the second United Peoples SONA, acting as an alternative to what President Duterte and the Philippine administration puts forward in their address.

In May, a Chinese vessel sank a Filipino fishing vessel in the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea), in waters claimed by both the Philippines and China. The incident has led to widespread criticism of Duterte's handling of the incident and the Philippines wider relationship with China.

One of the United People's SONA organisers, Neri Colmenares, said that "he let China take our territory in the West Philippine Sea. He let China take advantage of our fishermen....our fishermen don't earn much as it is, but Duterte still gives it away to his Chinese masters."

Other issues risen during the protest include human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, and perceived failure of the administration's economic and labor policies.

Protests also occurred across the country, including in Mindanao, where some protesters were blocked by police from protest routes.

In his SONA address, President Duterte called on the Philippine congress to gain reinstate the death penalty for drug traffickers. A previous attempt to reinstate the death penalty stalled in the Senate in 2017.

Human rights campaigners in the Philippines and internationally have already expressed concern for this proposal

Duterte also threatened to close down businesses, particularly hotels and tourist establishments, that continue to pollute Manila Bay, which is currently being rehabilitated after the success of Boracay's 6-month shutdown.

PHOTO: Rappler/Jire Carreon










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