Archiv der Kategorie: State of the Nation

Aquino’s SONA – The Aftermath

As the streets of Manila cleared after a particular busy day on Monday – busy even by the high standards of the rowdy Metro area – we take a look back and assess the dominant topic of the week.

It has been quite an eventful past couple of days for us IPON Observers on Negros as well. Amongst Hacienda tours and visits to government officials, we kept a watchful eye on the highly anticipated State of the Nation Address (or SONA, as it is colloquially known in the Philippines) by President Benigno S. Aquino III. Accompanied by violent protests in Manila, including the occasional burning of Aquino-like puppets in the streets of the Capital, the President went on, unimpressed, to deliver his speech. As we pointed out in our last blog, it was a point of great interest amongst many activists whether or not he would address the subject of human rights abuses in the Philippines and the current process of the CARP.  Our partner organisation Task Force Mapalad (TFM) had already announced beforehand that if Aquino would not follow up on his promises to announce measures to curb the ongoing violations of international human rights – or at least acknowledge the very existence of such problems – and bring the CARP Reform to a satisfying conclusion, they would answer with a protest march on Manila. Before we go any further and consider the consequences, let’s take a quick look at the speech itself. President Aquino did indeed not comment on the human rights situation in his country right now. The general focus of the SONA was on economic topics – complete with a great many statistics and numbers to stress the current upward trend – and the pledge to fight corruption and promote transparency. Now, measures to emphasise good governance are indeed noteworthy and their implementation a necessary tool to increase government performance, but surely that is no reason to ignore the other big problems that exist in Filipino society. Violations and abuses of human rights are still very much present and the perpetrators can still be found among state actors. Ignoring this is a fatal sign that arbitrary judgement continues to be an official matter.

Source: Asian Correspondent,

Source: Asian Correspondent,

What Aquino actually did, was to comment on the CARP process. Or, to be more precise, he briefly mentioned the ongoing land reform on his very own Hacienda Luisita and acknowledged delays with regard to the program as a whole. In addition, he had some tips for independent farmers on how they would be able to make some extra income by planting additional crops. The transcript of the relevant paragraph can be read here: 

If there is one topic my name is often associated with, that would have to be Hacienda Luisita. I would like to inform you that back in February, in compliance with the decision of the Supreme Court, the Department of Agrarian Reform has completed the list of qualified beneficiaries for the land in Luisita. According to Secretary Gil de los Reyes, the process to determine the beneficiaries’ lots began last week, and the turnover of these lots will begin in September of this year.

As for other large tracts of land: We have long tasked the DAR, DENR, LRA, and Land Bank to develop a framework for speeding up the parceling out of land. I would like to remind everyone: Correct data is the first step to the orderly implementation of CARPER. But we inherited a land records system that is problematic and defective. This is why, from the start, the DOJ, LRA, DENR, and DAR have worked to fix this system, and now we are at a point where we can guarantee that in the next year, all notices of coverage will have been served for lands covered by comprehensive agrarian reform.

Considering the length of the SONA this brief reference is wholly unsatisfying, both for us as human rights observers, as well as for the farmers affected. Indeed, the process of land segregation at Hacienda Luisita is far from over, with several groups still vying for possession of land. Furthermore, problems with correct data surveys still hamper proper land processing and it remains doubtful that the CARP can be properly finalized within the tight deadline until next year.

The TFM will therefore make their voices be heard and try to get the country’s and the President’s attention when they organise their rally in Manila. Said protest is planned to start in early August and will last as long as the farmers do not receive an appropriate response from the government. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that human rights defenders can undertake their protest march actions free from threats or violence.

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Eingeordnet unter Aktuelles, Demonstration, Medien, National Politics, SONA, State of the Nation, TFM

SONA 2013 – Great Expectations

Leaving a dusky and rainy weekend behind, the IPON Negros team happily goes into another week in Bacolod.  The sun seems to have awaken from its temporary lethargy and an aura of sunny peace and tranquility has been surrounding the routine in our neighbourhood from very early hours.

For us three, as a brand-new team in Negros Occidental, every Monday is accompanied by the excitement and expectations of new events and activities to come: contacts being forged among the Task Force Mapalad (TFM) Hacienda farmers’ representatives, old cases from former teams being relived and reviewed and discussions raised on potential projects to be launched during the next months.

But today’s Monday is not one like any other.

Today, President Benigno S. Aquino III is holding his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) since him entering his role back in May 2010. The SONA is mandated by the 1987 Constitution and is an annual address by the President of the Republic of the Philippines to the Filipinos through a Joint session of the Congress of the Philippines. The speech is being held today at 2pm in the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon, the same venue where Corazón Aquino, the mother of the current President, held her first SONA upon the re-establishment of the Congress in 1987.

Source: Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines,

From the perspective of our mature and well-established European democracies, this annual event may be seen as a mere occasion for the government to highlight its achievements and leave aside any performance failures since last July 2012. However, the overall feeling here in the Philippines today is far different from such a view. There are great expectations and hopes connected to today’s SONA as Aquino is facing a much more demanding audience, eager to obtain palpable results of his numerous promises. Unlike previous SONAs of his presidential term, a standard discourse shaped and tinged by the good intentions after the take-over from the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration will not suffice.

One of this demanding social actors is our partner organization TFM, whose next steps and actions, including a possible protest march in Manila in August (s. our blog entry Promised Land) are closely dependent upon the attention paid today by Aquino to land issues and the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme (CARP, Republic Act NO. 6657 as amended by RA 7881, 7905, 8532 and 9700).

But not only will the speech this afternoon affect TFM’s objectives and priorities and thus indirectly IPON’s agenda in Negros: a protest rally against the SONA and the Aquino government itself has been organized by different filipino and foreign human Rights non-government organizations, community and advocate groups concerned about the human rights situation in the country, all of them coordinated under the umbrella of  the global network International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP).

Human rights violations are expected to constitute one of the issues addressed by the President today, reacting to the demands of these groups for accountability of state crimes such as  extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance commited mainly by the  military and other state security forces during the previous decade. This, together with the desire for freedom for political prisoners and a stop on militarization of rural communities should require a direct approach by Aquino to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) during his speech today.

As the day moves forward into noon, our expectancy and hopes, too, increase on this regular Monday morning. We look forward to offer you an update,  upon delivery by the President, as soon as the speech is available in English.

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Eingeordnet unter Aktuelles, Alltagsleben, Demonstration, National Politics, SONA, State of the Nation, TFM