Fil-Ams stage ‘People’s SONA’ in New York

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 28, 2014

WOODSIDE, New York – Even before President Benigno Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress, more than a dozen progressive Filipino organizations took to the streets in Woodside, New York, Sunday.

“Sawang-sawa na kami sa ganitong gobyerno,” DJ Arucan of Gabriela Philippines said. “Ang panawagan namin impeachment o yung sukdulang pagpapatalsik sa isang regimen na – inutil na pinabayaan ang mamayang Pilipino,” DJ Arucan of Gabriela Philippines said.”

Five years into President Aquino’s term, this “People’s SONA” claims that President Aquino has failed to deliver his promises, especially when it comes to “Daang Matuwid.” It was his campaign battle cry against graft and corruption that won him the presidency in 2010.

“His straight and narrow path has been nothing but crooked and corrupt,” Jennine Ventura of Gabriela, New York, said.

“Mga appointee niya at sa mga kapartido niya marami ring guilty dito subalit wala pa sa kanila ang nasasampahan ng kaso,” Gary Labao of BAYAN-USA said. “Pinalinaw niya sa sambayanang Pilipino na wala siyang pinagkaiba sa panahon ni Marcos, sa panahon ni Arroyo, sa panahon ni Estrada at panahon ni Ramos, lahat sila pare-parehong mapagsamantala at nagnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan.”

Meanwhile, Aquino supporters, who recently held a protest against China’s bullying, believe otherwise.

“He is the best president, I believe, because he is able to make the Philippines rise up. We are now the new Tiger in Asia,” community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis said.

“I really feel personally that the Philippines has been very blessed for having President Aquino, for the first time, we have something that is really a democratic Philippines,” Joe Ramos of US Pinoys for Good Governance said.

But for Filipino migrant workers, they said Aquino failed to address the issues and needs of overseas Filipino workers, especially when it comes to human and labor trafficking of OFWs.

“During Benigno Aquino’s term, we have also seen migrant workers in the US subjected to terrible conditions. We have seen hundreds of cases of abuse and trafficked workers,” Lorena McRae of Philippine Forum said.

McRae says the Philippine government has yet to shut down unscrupulous and abusive recruitment agencies as well as prosecute those that prey on unsuspecting OFWs.

McRae said, “Itong mga tao na nagta-traffic ng migrant workers ay i-black list, tanggalin na yan sa sistema nila, hindi eh, nakakapasok pa rin sila eh.”

Being President Aquino’s second-to-last SONA, whether they’re Aquino allies or otherwise, Filipinos in New York all agree that kababayan voters can do better by choosing Aquino’s successor in 2016 more wisely.

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