The rebellion behind SONA is the real state of the nation

Anyone in their right minds would have expected the President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address to be whack.

While the 42-minute speech was a bit underwhelming for the president’s own standards, it certainly did not disappoint with its serving of messy Game of Thrones-esque drama. With both House speakers being trash, this was enough to make Twitter go nuts.

Read also: 15 SONA reaction tweets that’s better than any commentary you’ll see

For the thousands of protesters that marched the stretch of Commonwealth yesterday afternoon, however, the mess inside Batasan only barely showed the true state of the nation. It was actually nowhere to be found inside Batasan: It was out there, in the streets, where the people from all walks of life were united in letting the president know that they’ve had enough.

This year’s SONA protests–dubbed the “United People’s SONA”–is actually a historic moment. It has managed to unite the voices of around 300 sectoral, religious, student, and political groups–some of whom have been bitter rivals in the political arena–to declare the real state of the nation.

For Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), it is, perhaps, the president’s greatest (and only) admirable feat.

Hindi totoong walang achievement si Pangulong Duterte. Sa katunayan, nagawa niyang pagkaisahin ang iba’t ibang grupo at malawak na mamamayan laban sa tiraniya, chacha at diktadura,” Reyes said during the protest. (It’s not true that President Duterte doesn’t have any achievements. To tell the truth, he managed to unite different groups and the masses to fight tyranny, charter change and dictatorship.)

Yelling chants and carrying flags, banners, and creative effigies, the groups marched to Commonwealth to decry the president’s misogyny, failure to end labor contractualization, attacks on press freedom, the tax reform law, plans to amend the constitution for federalism, and the murder of the poor brought by the war on drugs, among others.

One of the highlights of the protest was a performance by artists group Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings (Resbak) and Saka, where performers read out names drug war victims.

Instead, there were only cries for justice, cries for genuine change–the cries of the real state of the nation.

The president’s 42-minute speech touched on some of these issues and boasted about how his policies are supposedly helping the nation–but outside Batasan, his voice was nowhere to be heard. Instead, there were only cries for justice, cries for genuine change–the cries of the real state of the nation.

“Ang tunay na state of the nation ay gutom dahil sa nagtataasang presyo. Ang tunay na state of the nation ay may pangulong nangangarap na maging diktador,” Einstein Recedes of youth group Anakbayan said.
(The real state of the nation is hunger because of rising prices. The real state of the nation is that there is a president aspiring to be a dictator.)

As the administration pretty much continues to nosedive straight into a full-blown Black Mirror season, perhaps it is time to stop listening to the president’s fake news. We all know his SONA will never be about the nation. The real state of the nation is in the streets, in our hashtags, and in our resistance.

by Philip Jamilla
Featured image by Philip Jamilla
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