Makabayan bloc slams Duterte's 'one-sided' foreign policy, failure to raise teachers' pay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 16) — The left-wing Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said Tuesday that it is set to join the grand rally marking President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address next week, with the group planning to take him to task for his supposed one-sided foreign policy and failure to raise teachers' pay.

The protest, called "People's SONA", will be held along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City before Duterte delivers his speech at 4 pm. on Monday, July 22.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate slammed Duterte for using the issue of sovereignty at his convenience, saying the chief executive is meek in the face of China's aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea just because of his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Sa halip na mag-jetski siya papuntang China at itanim ang bandila ng Pilipinas, ang kanyang foreign policy ngayon, ang nakatanim diyan ang bandila ng Tsina," Zarate said.

[Translation: Instead of taking a jetski to China and plant the country's flag there, his foreign policy now has China's flag on it.]

On the other hand, the administration uses national sovereignty as an excuse to reject the United Nations Human Rights Council's probe into the human rights situation in the country.

"If it is convenient sa administrasyong ito para madepensahan ang kanyang mga maling ginagawa ay ire-raise niya ang sovereignty card. Pero 'pag kinukwestiyon naman halimbawa ang patayan, human rights, sasabihin niya do not interfere with our policy," he added.

[Translation: If it is convenient for the administration to defend his mistakes, he will raise the sovereignty card. But when the killings and human rights abuse are questioned, he will say that other countries should not interfere with our policy.]

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro said it's time for the President to make good on his promise to raise teachers' pay halfway through his term.

"'Yung pangako mo na dagdag na sweldo para sa ating mga kaguruan, sana ay tuparin na. Umaasa ang mga guro, umaasa ang mga education workers para sa ia-announce ni President Duterte kaugnay ng pagtaas ng sweldo," Castro said.

[Translation: I hope he keeps true to his promise for our teachers. Teachers and education workers are hoping for his announcement on higher pay.]

The Makabayan bloc is composed of Zarate, Castro, Bayan Muna representatives Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago.

Minority leadership

The group will also insist that an opposition lawmaker lead the House minority coalition in the 18th Congress.

Zarate said the minority leader must be a lawmaker willing to oppose the policies and proposals of Duterte and the House majority bloc.

Having an opposition lawmaker as minority leader will ensure the system of checks and balances will prevail in the house, the lawmaker added.

"Ia-assert namin na dapat ang minority ay talagang ang magdadala sa boses ng minorya dito sa kamara," he said.

[Translation: We will assert that the minority will really bring the voice of minority in the chamber.]

"Hindi naman pwedeng ang minority leader ay pangunahing tagapagtaguyod din ng agenda ng administration," he added.

[Translation: The minority leader can't also be the one pushing for the administration's agenda.]

Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, who used to be the majority leader in the 17th Congress, has declared his intention to become the minority leader in the incoming Congress.

Under House rules, the minority leader is chosen by lawmakers who did not vote for the winning speaker at the start of the regular session.