PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. AQUINO III delivered his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address Monday amid moves to impeach him for his administration’s controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), portions of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Aquino, who was swept into power under a banner of transparency and good governance, faces his biggest challenge yet after several groups filed three impeachment complaints against him for the DAP, a stimulus program which involves pooling money saved from government programs to fund other unprogrammed activities, and for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which allows US forces greater access to Philippine facilities.
The President delivers his second to the last State of the Nation Address during a joint session of Congress at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City at four in the afternoon Monday.
The President is expected to make a pitch for his legislative agenda for the last two years of his term. However, many also expect the President to again defend the controversial DAP program.
Below is a streaming live feed from Radio Televison Malacanang of the President’s full speech.
As the President gave his address, thousands of people took to the streets on Monday in what has already become a yearly SONA refrain, this time to register their protest over controversies rocking his administration. Chief among the issues was the DAP controversy.
The biggest group that assembled belonged to groups allied with the Makabayan block in Congress, composed of groups such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, and the Kilusang Mayo Uno.
The protesters were blocked by several layers of riot policemen along Commonwealth Avenue several kilometers from the Batasan Pambansa. However, a small contingent of protesters, mostly belonging to an urban poor community, was able to sneak past security checkpoints and staged a lightning rally just 50 meters from the Batasan gate. The protesters were later joined by legislators from the Makabayan block, who staged a walkout just before the President gave his address.
While the smaller rally dispersed peacefully, the main contingent along Commonwealth clashed with riot police just as the President wrapped up his speech.
Policemen arrayed behind layers of riot shields akin to a Roman Testudo trained water cannons at the protesters as the activists pushed against concrete barriers and razor-sharp concertina wire, toppling several of the barriers.
The confrontation played out in the streets, military helicopters clattered overhead to monitor events on the ground.
Cooler heads however prevailed, preventing a riot from erupting.
Several injured people were seen being rushed away by paramedics.
The protesters dispersed peacefully by six in the evening, as the President finished his speech, with a threat that they would be back next year with a bigger contingent.