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Protests vs drug war, martial law abuses set

THE martial law era of the late President Ferdinand Marcos should be remembered for its failures, especially in upholding human rights, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday, ahead of massive protests planned for today, Sept. 21.

The protests, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law, are aimed at the government’s bloody war on drugs, his martial law declaration in Mindanao and what leftist groups described as Duterte’s dictatorial tendencies.

“The martial law era that began with the promulgation of Proclamation No. 1081 (s. 1972) has imprinted itself in the collective memory of the people as a time attended by the commission of gross human rights violations, arbitrary state interventions, rampant corruption, and disregard of fundamental civil liberties,” Duterte said in his Proclamation No. 319 signed on Sept. 19 and released on Wednesday.

“The administration recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations and all other failings of the government,” it added.

Duterte, however, warned against infiltrators who might seek to provoke law enforcers.

“I urge all protesters to act within the bounds of the law, maintain a peaceful conduct of rallies, marches and demonstrations, be vigilant of possible infiltrators who may instigate violence in an effort to provoke the police and other law enforcement authorities, and avoid causing any undue inconvenience to their fellow citizens,” the President said.

He previously said he would use force against the protesters if the situation gets out of control.

Three major protests are set all over Metro Manila for Sept. 21—one in Luneta led by the Movement Against Tyranny, a loose coalition of church groups and militant organizations, at the CHR compound in UP Diliman by the Tindig Pilipinas, a new cause-oriented group by mostly-Liberal groups, and a rally in Plaza Miranda by the administration PDP-Laban in support of the President’s call for “change.”

The Palace said Wednesday that an order of work suspension covers only the executive branch and local government units, and classes in public schools, colleges and universities.

“The other branches of government where the executive branch has no jurisdiction is not covered by the MC,” acting Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a memorandum circular.

“Government employees who will be assigned to report for work on Sept. 21 shall be remunerated through compensatory time-off for hours of work rendered, per Civil Service Commission [CSC] rules and regulations,” it added.

The President said the proclamation was “in solidarity with the people’s call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government and with the people’s desire to uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency and accountability in government.”

In a television interview, the President dared his critics to fill in the entire EDSA to air their grievances.

“I do not know how many millions would be joining you. I hope you can produce the crowd in Edsa. That’s not a problem,” he said in an interview with state-run PTV4.

“I have no illusions about the presidency,” he continued in a mix of Filipino and English. “I can always resign any time I want. I said, I’ve always talked about retirement. That’s not a problem.”

Duterte said he would close down EDSA and reroute traffic for the public’s convenience if protesters overstayed and occupy the main thoroughfare.

“If you go there for one month—if you say three days, I’ll give you five. If you say you’ll occupy Edsa, I’ll give you two months,” he said.

“If you do not leave, I’ll close Edsa and reroute traffic. You can keep EDSA, then the Filipinos will just have to suffer. Those of you who work as a salesgirl or in a factory, they’ll just have to contend with that,” he added.

“I challenge you. If you think that three days, one month will do, go ahead, be my guest,” the President continued.

Duterte said he could tolerate that scenario for a year. But he could not say the same for the public.

“I can live with it for about one year. Go ahead. Let’s see if the Filipino people will like that,” he said.

He said he was ready to resign, “subject to the concurrence of the military,” which he said would ensure the constitutional rule on succession is followed.

“These two must go together. Congress must approve it,” he said.

Leftist groups attacked the President ahead of today’s protests.

“Duterte has embarked on a desperate effort to obfuscate the objectives of the Sept. 21 rally in Luneta and the entire country. He thinks that by trolling protesters and creating absurd scenarios, he can confuse the public into inaction,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said in a statement.

Bayan said the people have had enough of “Duterte’s demagoguery.”

“Over the past few days, and at the height of Duterte’s ranting, there has been snowballing support for the rally in Luneta coming from various sectors,” the group said.

Students, professionals, workers, church people, national minorities, farmers and artists are expected to show up in the big rally in Manila.

“It is a broad united front against tyranny and dictatorship,” Bayan said.

Bayan said the issues are well-defined: extrajudicial killings, martial law, militarization in the countryside, the war in Marawi, attacks on institutions, the Marcos restoration, and the steady march towards dictatorship of the Duterte regime.

In Manila, Bayan and Sandugo will converge in front of the University of Santo Tomas at noon before marching to Mendiola with a Marcos-Duterte effigy described as a “Rody’s Cube.”

Luneta will be the last stop for the national minorities and Moro groups of Sandugo who have camped out in the University of the Philippines since Aug. 31.

Contingents from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon are also expected to join the Thursday action in Manila. Rallies are planned across the country, from Baguio in the North to General Santos in Mindanao. Solidarity actions are also being readied in Hong Kong and the United States.

“The rallies will be peaceful as it is not in the interest of protesters to engage in violence and be used by Duterte as scapegoat to fulfill his martial law fantasy. We call on the people to wear black as our protest color,” said Bayan.

“The Duterte regime has bullied and pushed the people too far, too long. On Sept, 21, we push back,” Bayan said.

Opposition senators on Wednesday called on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to stand by his word that there is no need to declare martial law nationwide.

In July, Lorenzana had assured Liberal Party president Senator Francis Pangilinan that the administration will not declare martial law in Luzon and the Visayas.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also called on Lorenzana to be true to his sworn oath to the republic to serve and protect the nation, its people, and its sovereignty.

Senantor Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, said that a nationwide declaration of martial rule is unjustifiable and unnecessary, adding that the rallies scheduled on Sept. 21 should not be used as reason for declaring martial law.

Senator Risa Hontiveros dismissed Duterte’s statement that the Sept. 21 protests might turn violent, saying if there is any violence, it would not come from the pro-democracy forces.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno is expected to lead the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos.

The chief magistrate, who faces impeachment proceedings by Duterte allies in Congress, will lead the unveiling of a monument of the late freedom fighter Jose Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights, the constitutional body being targeted by the administration.

Sereno is the guest of honor and will deliver a keynote address that would “ponder on the role of Diokno in Philippine democracy, especially in these very interesting times.”

According to her legal team, Sereno will be joined by CHR chairman Jose Luis Gascon, who is the target of the House of Representatives move to clash the 2018 budget of his agency to only P1,000.

A House leader on Wednesday urged demonstrators to exercise sobriety in expressing their views for or against the Duterte administration.

“Time and again, President Rodrigo Duterte has shown that he would not dare curtail people’s rights to assemble and air their sentiments,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chair of the House committee on appropriations, said.

“In return, the participating [protesters] should keep in mind that while they are free to protest, there are still limits to this freedom--limits that seek to protect the rights of the individuals who may not share their opinion,” Nograles said.

Nograles said that pro-Duterte groups are also expected to hold their own mass actions to express their support for the administration.

“President Duterte has demonstrated his openness to criticisms and his willingness to listen to our grievances, no matter how self-serving they are.. Let us not abuse this opportunity,” Nograles said.

The Supreme Court announced on Wednesday the suspension of work in the judiciary following President Rodrigo Duterte’s issuance of Proclamation No. 319, declaring Sept. 21 as a National Day of Protest.

While Duterte’s proclamation covers only employees in the executive branch, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has ordered work suspension today (Thursday) because most courts nationwide are located in the buildings of local government units (LGUs), which are covered by the presidential order.

Carpio is acting chief justice while Sereno is on leave. With Joel E. Zurbano and Maricel V. Cruz

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , Protests , Ferdinand Marcos , Martial law era , Palace , Drug war , Martial law abuses
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