Malacañang unfazed by protests
Malacañang was unfazed by the nationwide protests to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, saying majority of Filipinos still supported President Duterte.
Tens of thousands of people in Metro Manila and other cities on Thursday staged protest rallies against the President’s threats to impose nationwide martial rule and the bloody war on drugs in the biggest mass actions so far against Mr. Duterte just a year into his presidency.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Friday commended the rallies for focusing on issues and not on personalities, which he said, “sort of elevated the quality of public discourse in the country.”
He said, however, that many Filipinos still backed the President.
“A majority of the Filipinos, we see, appreciate two things, and this is based on surveys: the decisiveness of the President and also the perception that he’s quite a compassionate person,” he said.
“The perception of him is that he is like a strict father who is really imposing order in his house because his children are a bit rowdy,” he added.
He also said Filipinos must do their duties as good citizens, reminding them that good governance was a “two-way process.”
“And as we demand good leaders, we must likewise show that we are good citizens as well,” he said in a press briefing.
He also said the President listens to other views and that Mr. Duterte has “continually been assessing” the antidrug campaign, which has left thousands dead in just a year.
“Almost every month there is a command conference. In other words, the President listens. Always, there is this attempt to make sure that, especially, the next generation is not hurt,” he said.
As regards the call to end the alleged impunity of the police in the war on drugs, he said this was under investigation.
“It’s a little bit slow, of course, considering they are dealing with the bureaucracies, but there is a healthy response to these matters,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the President should not dismiss the protest rallies as mere noises of a small fraction of the population.
He said “a protest is a protest that any leader should take account of.”
“History of failed leaderships anywhere in the world tells us that the voices of dissent almost always start with few and insignificant numbers,” Lacson said.
The large turnout in Thursday’s rallies likely wounded the President’s ego, according to Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.
“In Davao he is not used to being challenged. This protest is a big hit on his pride,” said Alejano, one of the most vocal critics of Mr. Duterte in the House of Representatives.
Alejano, who filed an impeachment complaint against the President that was rejected by the House, said he believed the Duterte administration had been spooked by the big demonstrations.
He said Mr. Duterte’s trip to Marawi City during the “National Day of Protest” showed that the President “doesn’t care about other issues, except for the war on drugs and martial law.”
Alejano said Mr. Duterte expressed his insecurities when he stated that he would resign “with the concurrence” of Congress and the military.
“For me, if he wants to resign because he can no longer do the job, he can do it anytime. He doesn’t need to drag Congress and especially the armed forces into it. Do not politicize the military,” the former military officer said.
Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison said Thursday’s rallies were “a great beginning of the broad united front of protest mass actions against tyranny and fascist dictatorship.”
“The counter-rallies of Duterte paled in comparison,” Sison said in an online interview on Friday from the Netherlands. —WITH REPORTS FROM DJ YAP AND DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.