Cabinet execs join throngs of Duterte supporters
Amid criticisms on the administration’s brutal war on drugs and its creeping authoritarianism, supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte were called on Thursday to speak up, openly show their support to him and help protect his six-year term.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday led the “Ituloy ang Pagbabago” event, which saw thousands of Duterte’s supporters gather at the historic Plaza Miranda in Quiapo district in Manila.
Cusi said that the gathering organized by various pro-Duterte groups was meant to provide those who support the administration a venue “to express their beliefs” and show their continued backing of Duterte’s programs and advocacies, especially the war on drugs.
“This is democracy. While others have their venue, the majority should also have theirs. The majority have remained quiet. They shouldn’t be,” Cusi told reporters in an interview.
Despite the presence of several trucks of “Duterte’s Kitchen” that served porridge, buses that ferried attendees, and tarpaulins that carried messages of support from various city and provincial councils, Cusi guaranteed that “no government funds” had been spent in holding the rally.
Malacañang earlier declared Thursday, the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, as a National Day of Protest.
As thousands of Mr. Duterte’s critics trooped to Luneta and various city centers yesterday, Bello, a former militant, said that instead of criticizing the government, they should realize the extent of the country’s problem on illegal drugs.
“The future of our country is at stake here. We should be united. Forget politics so we can end the drug problem once and for all,” he said.
Bello also noted that members of the Cabinet were not obliged to attend the rally but they came out on personal capacity to express support for the pro-government gathering, which police estimated drew around 7,000 attendees.
He added that he came in his personal capacity “to show support for the President’s program for genuine change and campaigns against illegal drugs, corruption and criminality.”
Isko Moreno, a former Manila vice mayor who backed the presidential run of Sen. Grace Poe, called the protests against Duterte as a way to oust the President out of office, just a little over a year after he assumed the presidency.
“We will not join in the objective of some to kick this administration out. It’s because if they succeed, they would be the only ones who would benefit from it,” said Moreno, who was recently appointed board member of the North Luzon Railways Corp.
He added that Duterte’s critics should “respect our democracy,” as this would help the country achieve peace and progress.
Sandra Cam, an avid supporter of Duterte who lost in last year’s Senate race, urged the attendees to be more “vigilant,” as she alleged that the “yellow camp” are out to steal the presidency.
“I am calling on all of you. Let us help President Duterte finish his term. Let us not let the drug lords, who have allied themselves with the yellows, rule,” Cam said.
For his part, Boy Saycon, secretary general of the Council for Philippine Affairs, lauded the attendees saying that they are “a huge obstacle in the efforts to destroy the Duterte administration.” /jpv
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