For the first time in over a decade, representatives from progressive organizations crossed Mendiola Bridge and met the new president in Malacañang.
The People’s Agenda for Change was crafted yesterday, June 29, by various sectoral groups. It consists of several key actions Duterte is expected to fulfill in his first 100 days as president, including extracting accountability from ex-president Aquino; progressive economic reforms; and renewed focus on peace and human rights, foreign policy, democracy, and national sovereignty.
With the president were KMU chairperson Elmer Labog, Kabataan Partylist representative Sarah Elago, Karapatan secretary-general Christina Palabay, Bayan Negros secretary-general Christian Tuayon, Lumad leader Eufemia Cullamat, P1nas Convener and Makabayan leader Liza Maza, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general Antonio Flores, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes.
According to Reyes, the group discussed several pressing issues, including labor contractualization, destructive mining, the protection of ancestral lands, land reform, increase of government spending for health and education, and the release of political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.
The release of political prisoners is part of honoring previous agreements signed during formal talks between the GPH and NDFP peace panels. Peace talks are set to resume on the third week of July after the exploratory talks on June 16 to 17 this year.
With regards to mobilizations by people’s organizations, Duterte said that he recognizes the freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly.
This pronouncement by the new president is apparent in today’s mobilization. Police presence was minimal. During the meeting, Duterte assured Reyes that the SONA mobilization this July can be held closer to Batasan.
At today’s mobilization, thousands marched and held placards, bearing calls similar to those enumerated in the People’s Agenda for Change.
When asked by a radio commentator if progressive groups were still to hold rallies while Duterte is president, Reyes answered with a resounding yes.
“Marami pang problema ang mangangailangan ng sama-samang pagkilos. Hindi naman nalutas ang lahat ng problema ng bansa dahil lamang may bagong gobyerno. At hindi naman ang pag-upo sa gabinete ang katapusan ng ating gawain. Hindi cabinet appointment, kundi panlipunang pagbabago, ang ipinaglalaban natin,” Reyes said in a blog post.
Text by Erika Cruz; photos by Kate Tayamora, Ariel Jebulan and Joolia Demigillo