More than 8,000 protesters gathered along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, near the Batasang Pambansa parliament complex on 25 July where President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was scheduled to present his first State of the Nation Address. Grassroots organizations under the banner of patriotic alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan launched their own ‘Peoples’ SONA’, presenting the ‘real state of the nation’ and expressing their demands on the Marcos II regime.

Earlier, The People’s Summit, organized by think-tank Ibon, BAYAN, the Makabayan coalition of opposition parties, Movement for Good Governance and Genuine Democracy, and other groups, presented the ‘People’s Agenda for Change’.

Hammered out in a three-day session, The People’s Summit says the People’s Agenda for Change serve both as fighting demands and an outline of the basic reforms that need to be undertaken “to address the systemic roots of the crisis facing the country such as run-away inflation, widespread poverty, joblessness, graft and corruption, injustice, and others.”

Their urgent demands and proposals, they said, will be submitted to relevant government agencies. The People’s Agenda for Change will also be presented to the Filipino people “to galvanize their involvement in shaping the new government policies that affect them,” said the Summit’s organizers.

During the protest action on 25 July, human rights alliance KARAPATAN decried the eerie silence of Marcos Jr. on civil and political rights issues such as extrajudicial killings, political prisoners, press freedom, disinformation, peace negotiations, justice for victims of human rights violations and the International Criminal Court’s investigation of the Duterte regime.

Danilo dela Fuente, Vice Chairperson of martial law victims organization SELDA, said, “Marcos Jr. cannot claim that he is innocent and is off the hook from being liable on the violations inflicted upon us by his father’s bloody regime... The audacity of Marcos Jr. to deny this truth and escape accountability!”

Indigenous peoples’ organization Katutubo Youth, rejected Marcos Jr.’s silence on the almost daily bombing of their communities. They find themselves in the worst situation in history: 159 extrajudicial killings, 2,013 illegal arrests and 573,931 forced evacuations. They also decried the government order to close all Lumad schools, including 11 closed by then Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, now Vice President and Secretary of the Department of Education.

Meanwhile, Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, expressed solidarity with the SONA protesters who showed “the true state of the nation.” He said, “We urge the dictator’s son not to follow his father’s cruel and bloody footsteps, and instead to work with his critics and the Filipino people’s movements who do have realistic, specific proposals to help solve the pressing problems of the Philippines to achieve just, peaceful and genuine development.”