The alt-SONA last July 18 was a wake-up call to our generation.
Last Tuesday, July 18, 2017, an all-girl Catholic school took the lead in rallying against the current administration’s war on drugs and rampant syndication of fake news. St. Scholastica’s College Manila was the venue for an alt-SONA, hosted by #YouthResist, a movement formed by youth groups Millennials Against Dictators (MAD), Akbayan! Youth, and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP). Attendees were comprised of Scholasticans and supporters from different sectors, coming from as far as Caloocan. After a short program, the attendees took to the streets to the tune of Do You Hear The People Sing from Les Miserables, and to chants of “Sa masa ay traydor, Dutertador!”
The numbers 12,000 and 7,000 flashed on the screen at the beginning of the program in the St. Cecilia’s Hall. The numbers correspond to the number of unresolved homicide cases and the number of deaths under President Duterte’s war on drugs, a painful reminder of the bloody year that has passed since his election. “We stand here because we want to send a clear and strong message to this government. If the message of the President’s state of the nation is supposed to be that the government is fine, that the country is getting better, that changed has finally arrived; then I will say this again – nothing could be further from the truth,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros in her speech in front of her fellow Kulasas.
“We stand here today to tell this government that the millennials are watching. That you are not blind,” she said, addressing the audience. “The youth will not be fooled by fake news and information on social media. After all, social media is the domain of the millennials. No group of old men in Malacanang know this place better than you. We will take back the democracy they are stealing from us. And we know this darkness will pass because you, the young have the light,” added the Senator.
Shibby de Guzman, a 13-year-old leader of #YouthRESIST, rallies the people marching under the banner. “Today, we are here, asking these questions with the loudest voices, the loudest protests. We are here to stand together against the threats to our nation.”
She continues, “We are what stand after the people older than us have faded into history. When all the people responsible for our current issues have died, we are left to fix them. We remain when their generation has faded. We will be the ones who will have to think of ways and means to fix already difficult problems like poverty and corruption. Not so friendly reminder: these problems only get worse under a dictatorship.”
Lea Calano from Caloocan, kin of an EJK victim called Jomar, talks about experiencing the horrors of Oplan Tokhang firsthand. “Tulad po ni Jomar, napakarami na pong nabiktima ng Tokhang, nabiktima ng Dutertador, pero ni isa, hindi binigyan ng pagkakataong magsalita. Hihintayin pa ba ninyong mangyari ito sa pamilya ninyo bago tayo magsalita at kumilos? Ilang asawa, anak at magulang pa ang mauulila bago matapos ang bangungot na ito.”
De Guzman reminds her fellow youth of the stepping stones that are within their capacities. “We cannot stay behind the comforts of ranting on social media. We do not limit our actions to just voices on the internet. Opposing evil does not stop there. We must start now. This is… a beginning to something greater than any rally or any post that goes viral.”
Jeza Rodriguez of SCAP said that they will be mobilizing young people for the July 24 SONA. Aside from mobilizations, the group said that they’ll be doing campus tours nationwide and taking the battle from online to offline, by marching on the streets and engaging more young people.
“This is the youth taking back our place in Philippine politics – taking back the voice that the administration has tried so hard to silence. We will scream and shout if we have to. We will take to the streets if we need to”, Shibby concluded.
The peaceful protest end in a joyful note, as the rally ended to a crowd of millennials all singing to the Black Eyed Peas anthem, Where Is The Love?
A multi-sectoral rally will be held in San Antonio de Padua Parish in Quezon City on July 23, from 12 midnight onwards. Stay tuned for updates.