Protest rallies call for end to tyranny
“Remember the 21st of September,” the militant coalition Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) says as Filipinos march across the country on Thursday to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and make known that they oppose the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mr. Duterte has declared Thursday National Day of Protest to allow the people to express their frustration at the “excesses and shortcomings of the government.”
He has allowed protests to be held without permits, but ordered police to maintain order.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines issued a statement late on Wednesday saying it was “duty-bound to protect” the “inherent right of the people to peaceful assembly.”
The “End Tyranny” rally at Rizal Park called by MAT is among several protests across the country on Thursday and the first massive movement opposing Mr. Duterte, who is unused to dissent after ruling Davao City as mayor with an iron fist for 22 years.
Mr. Duterte has placed Mindanao under martial law to break a terrorist siege of Marawi City and he has repeatedly threatened to put the entire country under military rule if opposition to his signature program, stamping out narcotics, turns violent.
Police have reported killing more than 3,800 people since Mr. Duterte launched his war on drugs after taking office in June last year, and unknown assailants have killed thousands more, sparking global concern over violation of human rights in the Philippines and warnings to Philippine officials about a possible crime against humanity.
At first, Filipinos supported Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, but in recent weeks, teenagers have been the victims of police killings, causing widespread public anger.
Families of the campaign’s victims will be among the marchers on Thursday and police are watching two spots in Manila where the protesters and Mr. Duterte’s supporters are gathering.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said up to 10,000 protesters from various groups were expected to turn up at Rizal Park in Manila for the “End Tyranny” rally.
Mr. Duterte’s supporters said they could muster 10,000 to 15,000 for their own activities in Manila’s Plaza Miranda and Don Chino Roces Bridge — formerly Mendiola Bridge — near Malacañang.
Worried about trouble
“What we are avoiding is a meeting of the pro and the anti [groups],” Albayalde said. “That is why we are coordinating closely with the pro. While we won’t have problems in Plaza Miranda, we are looking at Mendiola, where Kadamay is already in place.”
Kadamay is a group of urban poor that has grabbed government housing for soldiers and police. It is supporting informal settlers in resisting eviction from private property in the cities.
Albayalde admitted that the metropolitan police are worried about security, as Kadamay may create trouble during the protests.
He said 600 officers would be deployed to Rizal Park and 400 would secure the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard. The NCRPO public safety battalion will be on standby, he said.
About 100 officers will be deployed to Don Chino Roces Bridge, with 50 officers to help Palace guards secure each gate of Malacañang, he said.
Plainclothes police and Special Weapons and Tactics officers will observe the protesters to prevent violence, he added.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), part of MAT, listed down reasons why Filipinos “should speak out, be at [Rizal Park] and other places of protest, and continue to oppose martial rule.”
“[I]f you don’t, you might one day just wake up (i.e., if you are lucky) that: your jolly delivery boy (if he is not yet Tokhanged) has failed to deliver your morning newspaper; there are no free TV stations, much less cable TV, except those run or approved by the State; radio only airs boring and monologous State-run programs and fake news; all mass and social media exult the bloody drug war; and your e-mail, FB, messenger, Viber, Whatsapp, Instagram, Telegram and Signal are monitored, screened or blocked,” the NUPL said.
Court workers may join the protests after the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the suspension of work in courts across the country.
A newly formed coalition opposed to the Duterte administration, #TindigPilipinas, will hold an event at the University of the Philippines and join a gathering on the Commission on Human Rights grounds in Quezon City that is expected to be participated in by Vice President Leni Robredo and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Another newly formed coalition, Laban ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses), which is not identified with either the Duterte administration or the political opposition, is one of the protest groups gathering at the Mendiola peace arch in Manila.
The group led by former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello has vowed to oppose the reimposition of martial law and slammed Mr. Duterte for the killings in his war on drugs.
Across the country
In Mr. Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, MAT is holding a rally aimed at countering his “increasing fascism and militarist rule.”
In Cagayan de Oro City, protests will be held by the groups Bayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kadamay, Kalumbay and various organizations associated with the Catholic Church.
“End Tyranny” gatherings will also be held in Naga City and Cebu City.
Militant organizations including Karapatan, Bayan, Gabriela and League of Filipino Students expect to gather up to 13,000 protesters in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Albay and Sorsogon, according to Vince Casilihan of Bayan Bicol.
Thousands of survivors of martial law under Marcos, student activists, lawyers, human rights campaigners and clergy will join MAT rallies in Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan provinces.
Protest marches will also be held in Tacloban City in Leyte province.
Local chapters of Dangayan and the Makabayan bloc will hold a rally in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province, and students will march across Baguio City in Benguet. —With reports from Marlon Ramos, Jaymee T. Gamil, Jovic Yee, Juan Escandor, Nestor P. Burgos, Joey A. Gabieta, Nestle L. Semilla, Jessa O. Sotto, Allan Nawal, Jigger Jerusalem, and Edwin Fernandez