PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte declared Sept. 21 “a National Day of Protest” in anticipation of threats of massive demonstrations to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the abuses under his regime.
“September 21 is not a holiday. I have declared it as a day of protest,” Duterte told reporters in a chance interview during the wake of a slain cop in Caloocan.
The President said he would suspend government work and classes during that day, adding that all those who want to protest, including those from government can demonstrate.
“All of those who wanted to protest against the government, against the police and even the police — go down here and protest,” he added.
Duterte even dared the communist New People’s Army to bring the protests to Manila, as he vowed not to arrest them.
“The military said that the rebels, the red army — come down here, I will not arrest you. I will not arrest you but do not, for the life of me, I’m asking you do not commit a crime. No vandalism, no everything,” he said.
The police and the army will be in their barracks, and only traffic enforcers would be around, he said.
Militant groups said they would join the mass protest on Sept. 21.
The No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition said they will protest the continued fuel hikes and taxation as well as President Duterte’s use of martial law as a threat.
George San Mateo, coalition convener and Pinagkaisahang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) national president, said they oppose martial law because it will add to the socioeconomic burden of Filipinos and strip them of civil, political and cultural rights.
Kilusang Mayo Uno Secretary General Jerome Adonis, said they are against Duterte’s threat of martial law.
“When our brothers the jeepney drivers and those in the transport sector protest, his answer is martial law,” he said in Filipino.
A candlelight vigil is set at 6 p.m. in Mendiola on Sept. 20. The next day, there will be a transport and people’s rally from 8 to 11 a.m. and a march to Morayta then Welcome Rotunda for Bayan and Movement Against Tyranny’s rally at Luneta Park.
Duterte said he will “not hesitate to impose martial law all throughout the country and order the arrest of everybody” if communist rebels will resort to violence in the streets.
Also on Monday, the Office of the Civil Defense said nationwide earthquake drills set for Sept. 21 were not meant to undermine protests against the government.
“This is not a distractive strategy. This is an ongoing campaign,” Office of Civil Defense spokesperson Romina Marasigan told Palace reporters in a chance interview.
“There’s really no politics here,” she added.
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