What Duterte is protesting on September 21

Pia Ranada
What Duterte is protesting on September 21
President Rodrigo Duterte says he will be among those expressing grievances against the government on the day he declared as a 'national day of protest'

MANILA, Philippines – If you can’t beat them, join them.

While President Rodrigo Duterte’s critics are expected to stage rallies on September 21, a day he has declared a “national day of protest,” he too will be among those expressing grievances against the government. (READ: What to expect on September 21)

It’s not clear if Duterte will physically appear in any rally on that day. But on Tuesday, September 19, he laid out what angers him about government.

Ako, magpoprotesta rin. Kasi maraming mga dilaw, nandiyan sa mga commission, napaka-corrupt (I will also protest, because there are many yellows in commissions who are corrupt),” he said during an interview on state-run PTV.

“Yellows” in the Philippine political context refer to people associated with the administration of Benigno Aquino III. Yellow is the signature color of the former dominant Liberal Party.

Duterte is apparently frustrated that laws and government regulations in place prevent him from removing these “corrupt” officials from their posts.

“I will also protest because I cannot remove them simply because they have a fixed term; there’s a security of tenure,” he said.

While he did not mention anyone, Duterte had previously complained against heads of constitutional bodies who cannot be removed unless they are impeached such as  Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, both Aquino appointees.

Sereno is the subject of an impeachment complaint that the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte allies, had deemed sufficient in form and substance. The Volunteers Against Graft and Corruption (VACC), which supports Duterte, had said it would file an impeachment complaint against Morales.

‘Small salary’

On Monday, September 18, Duterte said he also wants to protest the “small” salary of government workers, including himself. He said he suspended government work so that even government workers like himself can join the rallies.

Kami ring mga taga-gobyerno, ako magprotesta rin kasi ang aming sahod maliit. Wala kaming equipments, wala kaming mga allowance. Sabay tayong mag-protesta sa gobyerno natin,” he said.

(Even us in government, we will protest because our salary is small. We don’t have equipment, we don’t have allowance. Let’s protest against the government together.)

Facing reporters and cameramen, Duterte urged them in his usual deadpan style that they too should be up in arms against their media companies for their meager salaries.

Kayong mga walang – underpaid sa media, hindi binabayaran ng itong mga net(work), kuripot itong mga [ito]….Pati kayo mag-protesta kayo diyan,” he said.

(Even you underpaid media, those not being paid well by your networks…Even you should protest.)

During his Tuesday interview, Duterte joked that he’d be willing to give protesters control of main thoroughfare EDSA for as long as a month or even two months.

“I challenge you. If you think that 3 days, one month will do, go ahead, be my guest. I will just re-route the traffic and ask the people, ‘I’m sorry, but you know, there are guys there that would want to occupy,'” he said.

The last time Duterte was at a rally was right after his second State of the Nation Address on July 25. He crashed the People’s SONA rally outside the Batasan Complex, walked up the stage, and tried to respond to the grievances of leftists. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.