Palace extends olive branch to protesters
Malacañang on Sunday held out an olive branch to various groups that joined the National Day of Protest against the President on Thursday, saying the administration was ready to hold a “constructive dialogue” with groups that were opposed to the way President Duterte ran the government.
“We have always kept the doors open for constructive dialogue with the strategic sectors of society, including those who do not share the stance of the administration on certain issues,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
The militant coalition Movement Against Tyranny said attendees to the peaceful rally at Rizal Park numbered at about 30,000, with one leader describing it as the biggest protest action so far against the Duterte administration.
The Philippine National Police, however, said the crowd only numbered 8,000 at the height of the protest rally.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Mr. Duterte should not belittle the “strength and righteous indignation” of the public, especially those who joined the “antityranny” rally at Luneta.
The protesters condemned extrajudicial killings even as it marked the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“President Duterte should not belittle the mass protest (on Thursday). It was significant because it also shows that we are against the return of martial law in the country,” said Zarate, who was also from Davao like the President.
“The people are not afraid and we will fight against the threat of martial law like what we did during the Marcos dictatorship,” he said.
The Luneta rally was attended by leaders and members of the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, delegations from the University of the Philippines, St. Scholastica’s College, and De La Salle University, church organizations and civil society groups.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr., former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Solita Monsod were sighted at the rally.
Housewife Emily Soriano, whose 16-year-old son was said to have been killed in extrajudicial fashion, told the crowd that Mr. Duterte should be replaced.
“I hope we replace the President. The pain is too much. We can’t take it anymore,” Soriano said.
“It’s the poor he’s punishing, his promises broken,” she said.
Soriano spoke on stage with other relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings. They are now being taken care of by the Rise Up network, which is composed of church people.
“It’s so painful because so many innocents have fallen victim, including my son, in this wrong war on drugs of Duterte,” Soriano said.
“It’s only us, the poor, that they’re victimizing. The rich have justice; the poor have none,” she said.
“I hope you, President Duterte, feel how we feel. You are also a parent. It is hard to lose a loved one,” she said.
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