Protesters vs charter change gather at People Power Monument
Published: 6:41 p.m., Feb. 24, 2018 | Updated: 7:49 p.m., Feb. 24, 2018
At least 2,000 representatives of the Church and organizations of urban poor, workers, youth and human rights advocates gathered at the historic People Power Monument in Quezon City on Saturday to unite under a common banner: No to another dictator.
The gathering took place on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that overthrew authoritarian leader President Ferdinand Marcos.
Braving the afternoon heat and armed with banners that read, “No to Cha-cha (Charter change),” the protesters marched from Main Avenue in Cubao to Ortigas Avenue to commemorate the bloodless revolt that toppled Marcos’ martial rule.
This time around, however, the protesters marched to oppose among others the push for charter change to shift to a federalist form of government, which they said would pave the way for President Rodrigo Duterte to cement his one-man rule as Marcos did.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said the mobilization was a “warning for those in power…any attempt to impose dictatorship and tyranny against the people will be resisted and eventually be defeated.”
Joining the protesters were former and incumbent militant lawmakers Antonio Tinio, Teddy Casiño, Emmi de Jesus and Neri Colmenares; Teodoro Bacani, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution; Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny, as well as members of religious and militant organizations.
Increasingly tyrannical rule
The gathering marked the latest among the wave of protests this week against the Duterte administration, whom critics condemned for his “increasingly tyrannical and dictatorial rule,” Reyes said.
Around 250 members of the Quezon City Police District were deployed to the monument, Supt. Ariel Capocao, ground commander, said.
At one point during their march, the protesters stopped in front of Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP), to demand for the release of all political prisoners, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis.
The 700-strong contingent proceeded to Edsa Shrine in Ortigas where they converged with members of the Church and other protesters before finally arriving at the People Power Monument at around 4:00 p.m.
Formula for tyranny
Chief among their calls was to oppose charter change, which Reyes called a “formula for tyranny.”
He said the proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution would allow Duterte to stay in power and curtail certain rights.
He cited, among others, proposed amendments that would lead to the extension of terms of elected officials as well as the move to amend Section 4 of the Bill of Rights to include the “responsible exercise of” freedom of expression.
“Right now we are seeing increased attacks on press freedom, the arrests of activists and critics [on trumped-up] charges…These are all disturbing and seem to be leading towards (authoritarian rule). We have to act now,” Reyes said.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus likened the many ways Mr. Duterte was following in the late dictator’s footsteps, particularly his “persecution of perceived enemies.”
“We see this in the way this administration is trying to impeach [Chief Justice Maria Lourdes] Sereno…in the way he is curtailing press freedom by banning [Rappler reporter] Pia Rañada from Malacañang. These are all hallmarks of a repressive leader who is intolerant of dissent,” De Jesus said.
Erosion of moral fiber
Sr.Mary John Mananzan, coconvenor for the multisectoral coalition Movement for Tyranny, meanwhile condemned the “erosion of moral fiber of [the Filipino] people.”
“[There is] loss of respect for life, loss of respect for the law, for the truth…even if this administration comes to an end, that is something that I think could be difficult to recover,” she said.
She cited as examples the bloody war on drugs, which Duterte returned to the hands of the PNP, and his crackdown on democratic institutions such as the Commission on Human Rights and the press.
“It’s not just cha-cha. This whole thing is really about dictatorship,” she said.
But Mananzan reminded Duterte that, much like in any revolution, all it would take is a spark to ignite the “already critical” masses.
“Who knows, maybe that spark is cha-cha,” she warned Duterte.
“This is an assertion that the people would no longer stand for yet another dictator like Marcos,” De Jesus said. “It is Duterte himself who must learn from the lesson of Edsa 1 – that there is no force stronger than the people united.” /atm
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