By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, San Francisco and Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, New York
A day after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address, Filipino-American activists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and New Jersey held simultaneous demonstrations protesting Aquino’s presidency.
Last night, activists in San Francisco held a protest march all the way to the Philippine Consulate.
These FilAm protesters say while they’re giving Aquino a chance to prove his worth as president, they’re also keeping a watchful eye on him.
Bernadette Herrera of the Samahan ng mga Kababaihan said, “Kailangan mapagbantay ang mga mamamayan. Kung may maganda siyang ginawa, suportahan natin. Pero kung may masama siyang ginawa, kailangan nating tuligsain para ma-remind siya na baguhin ang mali.” (We need to stay vigilant. If he does something right, we need to support him. But if he does something wrong, we need to hold him accountable.)
These activists say enough with the talk. They want action. They want to know if Aquino can truly champion all Filipinos, especially those working overseas.
Terry Valen of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns said, “We’re going to continue voicing our opinions as long as human rights violations are being committed, as long as overseas workers are being exploited, as long as immigration reform is not happening here in the United States, and Aquino does nothing about it.”
To be able to do his job as president, these FilAm activists say Aquino needs to stop dwelling on the past administration’s faults.
Elaine Villasper of Gabriela-USA said, “He spent so much time blaming Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during his State of the Nation Address. We were waiting for his plan. What is he going to do to find money for the Philippines, to lower poverty line, to answer these issues that he says Arroyo left him?”
These FilAm activists say instead of talking about corruption among politicians, Aquino needs to keep track of government spending.
Joshua Castro of Bayan USA said, “If there is discrepancy as to where the money is spent, then there should be an investigative process to make sure that the money is accounted for. There are plenty of resources but we have to make sure that the money is spent properly and it goes where it’s supposed to go.”
Meantime, FilAm activists in New York and New Jersey say Aquino may have a lot riding on his shoulders right now, but the country’s future is at stake.
They held a protest last night in the heart of the Filipino community in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Protesters say Aquino’s State of the Nation Address lacks the teeth they were hoping for and does not include the demands they were asking from him.
Gary Labao of Bayan USA said, “Unang-una, narinig natin ang matamis na talumpati ng bagong administrasyong Aquino, subalit nalulungkot kami dahil malaki ang kakulangan sa kanyang mga pangako.” (We have heard those promises from Aquino before. But we are disheartened that there is so much lacking in his promises.)
Yves Nibungco of Bayan USA added, “Unang una po wala po rito ang mga tunay na programa para tigilan yung pag-migrate ng mga kababayan natin dahil wala diyan yung job creation, national industrialization, yung genuine agrarian reform, at yung pagpapanagot kay Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” (There are no programs to stop the migration of our fellow Filipinos. There are no programs on job creation, national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and holding Arroyo accountable for her past administration’s errors.)
Hanalei Ramos, a Gabriela USA member said that if President Aquino feels weighed down by the mess created by the former President, then he should start investigating and prosecuting Arroyo, “GMA needs to be held accountable for all the atrocious human rights violations that have accumulated over the last 9 years.”
This group also wants the U.S. forces completely out of the homeland by junking the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Meantime, a Jersey City resident who happened to see the protest said it’s premature to grade a new President’s job performance at this time since it’s only been a month since Aquino took office. “Alam mo ang mga tao walang patience, It doesn’t take overnight para mabago mo ang iyong country.”(People have no patience. It doesn’t take overnight to change the country.)
These Filipino activist groups in New York and New Jersey vow to keep a close watch on President Aquino’s every step… to remain vigilant and to keep the pressure on the president until all their demands are finally met.