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Virtual or In Person? Duterte, Activists Prepare for SONA Day

The speech and protests must observe physical distancing.
by The reportr team
Jul 17, 2020
Photo/s: Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines)

President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to discuss his plans to solve the twin health and economic crises borne by the COVID-19 pandemic in his State of the Nation Address on July 27. While the form of the address had not been confirmed, activists are planning a street rally with their face masks on.

Duterte's priority is to "save lives and protect communities," Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a video on Facebook that introduces a series of government media briefings for the President's penultimate SONA. "The whole of govt is working round the clock the minimize the socioeconomic impact of this pandemic and to ensure our sustainable recovery. "

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on July 16 it was unclear whether Duterte would deliver the speech from the Batasang Pambansa or from a remote location. Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on the same day that Duterte preferred to hold the SONA in person at the Batasan.

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The multi-sector rally dubbed "SONAGKAKAISA" will push through on July 27, organizers said in a Zoom briefing on Friday. “We have the right to assemble peacefully, fully dressed in grievances. That is our constitutionally guaranteed right. Lalo ngayonmabagal ang kilos sa COVID, palagay ko obligasyon natin na tumutol (Especially now when COVID response is slow, I think protest is an obligation),” said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, an opposition leader. 

Those who will take to the streets are encouraged to wear face masks to go with their “COVID-inspired attire,” said Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes. The most recent anti-government protest on the streets had a “Mananita” or dawn party theme, a jab at a gathering hosted by Metro Manila’s police chief, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, that allegedly violated quarantine rules. 

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Aside from the government’s handling of COVID-19, the SONA rally also aims to protest the closure of ABS-CBN Corp’s broadcast operations and the signing into law of a new Anti-terror Law that is feared to curtail civil liberties. 

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Another protest veteran, Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzancalled on the public to tie red and black ribbons as a sign of protest.

“Ang panawagan po namin ay itoKalusugankabuhayanhindi kamay na bakal (This is our call: health, jobs not iron-fisted rule).” 

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Ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said: “Let us all unite and return to the good. The President has abandoned science, reason and good. Look where it all brought us: death, despair and the destruction of the economy.” 

Sereno was ousted in 2018 after peers in the high tribunal approved a “quo warranto” filing by Solicitor General Jose Calida that questioned the legality of her appointment. Calida also filed a “quo warranto” against ABS-CBN but it was not resolved before Congress voted on July 10 to deny its petition for a fresh 25-year franchise. 

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