Students walk out, priests go fasting to mark Edsa@32
Two days before the 32nd anniversary of the People Power Revolution that ousted the dictator President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, thousands of students nationwide poured into the streets in a massive walkout to protest what they described as President Duterte’s “increasingly tyrannical rule.”
Clad in black, students from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) and Manila, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, Philippine Normal University and other state universities and colleges marched from their schools to Mendiola on Friday to call for unity against “threats to democracy.”
The #WalkoutPH protest is part of a series of nationwide mobilization in response, among others, to the push for Charter change (Cha-cha) to enable a shift to a federalist form of government that would further cement Mr. Duterte’s “one-man rule,” said Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
At the People Power Monument on Edsa, Quezon City, Catholic priests, farmers, fisherfolk and members of the urban poor have gathered since Feb. 17 for a nine-day period of prayer and fasting meant “to uphold democracy.”
Led by Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka, Urban Poor Alliance Action Committee and Gomburza, the groups expressed their rejection of the possible change in the 1987 Constitution that they described as one of the “most precious legacies” of the People Power Revolution three decades ago.
“The current administration seeks to cast aside this legacy, proposing to replace it with a federalist project short on social justice principles and long on authoritarian possibilities lurking beneath its extravagant promises,” said Gomburza leader Fr. Robert Reyes, also known as the “running priest.”
The participants of the “Dasal-Ayuno” began their fast on Feb. 17 and will end it on Feb. 25 in time for the 32nd anniversary of the People Power Revolution.
Sister Teresita Alo of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Mother of God said that prayer could win back democracy, a defiant stance similar to that of the Church during the Marcos martial law era.
“We are here in a movement to reclaim our democracy. We won Edsa through prayer and sacrifice,” Alo said.
The student protesters also demanded the full implementation of the free tuition policy and the junking of “Oplan Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” program that cracked down on worn-out smoke-belching public utility vehicles.
They also condemned the continuing extension of martial law in Mindanao, the recently passed tax reform bill and the threat to press freedom following Malacañang’s ban on a reporter from Rappler.
“There is a chilling effect when Duterte publicly belittles or threatens to silence media that report on the atrocities committed by his government,” said Mikko Ringia, chair of the UP College of Mass Communication student council.
The UPD campus was symbolically placed on “shutdown” on Friday, with the gates of historic Palma Hall kept closed. It was on the steps of this building that students gathered in the 1970s to resist the Marcos regime.
‘Walk for Life’
The UPD administration meanwhile threw its support behind the activities that would be held in celebration of the Edsa revolt, “as part of their education,” UPD chancellor Michael Tan said in a memorandum on Thursday.
In Los Baños, Laguna province, over a hundred students and teachers participated in the youth-led protest, with UP Los Baños (UPLB) teachers allowing their classes to join the protest that started early on Friday.
In a statement, the youth political group Samahan ng Kabataan Para sa Bayan-UPLB said that they got together “to condemn these violations of our basic democratic rights to life, quality education and due process. We stand firm against these threats to our liberties and to democracy.”
Jeepney drivers and workers protesting against the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program also joined the protest, which coincided with mass actions held simultaneously in Baguio City, Angeles City, Mabalacat City, Malolos City, Metro Manila, Calamba City, Miagao, Iloilo City, Tacloban City, Cebu City, Marawi City and Davao City.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, meanwhile, called on members of the clergy as well as religious and lay organizations in his archdiocese to join today’s “Walk for Life” prayer rally at Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
“Walking is a symbol of life. Let us walk for our brothers and sisters whose lives are beset with problems and threats,” Tagle said in a video message.
Throwback to Marcos era
The “Walk for Life” prayer rally will be held on Saturday from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., with simultaneous activities in other parts of the country, including Fuente Osmeña Circle and Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in Cebu City; Gaston Park in Cagayan de Oro City; Tarlac City Plazuela in Tarlac City; and San Pablo City Cathedral and Dagatan Boulevard, Sampaloc Lake, at San Pablo City in Laguna.
Much like Mr. Duterte’s policies evoke a throwback to the Marcos era, Elago said, the students now have their own throwback to the youth who joined the First Quarter Storm series of protests against Marcos.
“In this critical period, we choose not to be silent on the various ways this government is killing us. It’s high time for the youth to show our power … and express our resolute commitment to the causes of our people,” Elago said.
“This protest is our response to President Duterte’s threat to kick out students who join rallies,” said Raoul Manuel, deputy secretary general of National Union of Students of the Philippines and former student regent of UP. —WITH REPORTS FROM KIMMY BARAOIDAN AND MARICAR CINCO
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