Pro-Duterte, anti-Martial Law groups engage in chant battle on Mendiola
MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of people, clad in green and orange shirts, gathered on one side of the Mendiola Peace Arch, nearer Malacañang Palace. They chanted: "Duterte! Duterte! Duterte!”
On the other side of the arch, about 5,000 protesters, minorities in indigenous attire and youth in black shirts, chorused: "Never again to Martial Law!"
On Thursday afternoon, September 21, the 45th anniversary of dictator Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of Martial Law, two significantly different groups of protesters simultaneously held their programs on the two sides of Mendiola – the street that has stood witness to countless protest rallies, both peaceful and bloody, against different administrations.
President's supporters had another contigent at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, while the anti-Duterte protesters marched on to Luneta, where the culminating rally for Thursday's numerous activities across Metro Manila would be held.
Before Thursday, malicious messages, such as the mobilization turning violent, circulated, apparently to discourage anti-Duterte protesters from joining the September 21 activities.
Among the biggest delegation at the Mendiola protest came from the groups of national minorities. Around 2,000 indigenous peoples joined the activity to register their dissent from the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
'Freedom of expression'
A bigger pro-Duterte rally was held at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo. As of 2 pm, police estimated that around 7,000 individuals attended the event.
According to Anthony del Rosario, the secretary general for Metro Manila of Duterte's PDP-Laban, they gathered to show their strong support for the President on what the Chief Executive himself declared as the National Day of Protest.
"'Yung maganda dito ay 'yung freedom to express your opinions," Del Rosario said in an interview with Rappler. (What is nice about the National Day of Protest is it gives us the freedom to express our opinions.)
"Kung talaga pinapairal [ni Duterte] lang 'yung puro tapang lang, eh 'di p'wede niya sanang i-suppress or 'dapat hindi payagan 'yung mga ganito," Del Rosario added. (If Duterte is really a bully, he could have just suppressed activities like this.)
Groups at the Plaza Miranda included the OFW Global People's Movement, I am Du30 Humanitarian Group, Du30 Riders Volunteers, Liga Independencia Pilipinas, and the Association of License Recruitment Agency.
Delegations from Bacoor City, Olongapo City, Valenzuela City, Bulacan, and Caloocan were also present at the pro-Duterte rally.
Around 200 police were deployed in Plaza Miranda to ensure peace and order at the venue.
Through the Duterte Kitchen, organizers of the pro-Duterte mobilization served arroz caldo to the those who attended.
President Duterte signed Proclamation Number 319, cancelling government work and classes in public schools to mark the declaration of Marcos' Martial Law. It "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."
'Effort to belittle protest'
For the anti-Duterte protesters, however, Proclamation Number 319 was nothing but empty words.
“That’s a big joke. He is the subject of the protest. He cannot declare a day of protest against himself. It is an effort to belittle the protest,” said Teddy Casino, a former member of the House of Representative for Bayan.
Casino also called it a “desperate trick” to try to neutralize the strength and message of the protest, which is to stop the killings rooted in the policies of the Duterte's administration.
Fortunately, Casino said, the "trick" did little to discourage people from attending the protest. Police estimated as of 5 pm that around 8,000 had joined the protest in Luneta.
Protesters reiterated their accusation that the Duterte government is trying to revise history by recognizing the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as a hero, having allowed the latter to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani after several presidents refused to do it. – Rappler.com