MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Thousands of people gathered in different parts of the country on Thursday, September 21, to remember and remind Filipinos of the dark chapter in Philippine history following the declaration of martial law 45 years ago.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared September 21 as a "National Day of Protest" in anticipation of mass actions to mark the anniversary of Martial Law, and suspended work in government offices and in public schools across the country.
At around 10 am on Thursday, hundreds of students of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, progressive youth groups, and Lumad youth held a rally in front of Quezon Hall to mark the anniversary of Martial Law and to denounce the Duterte administration's feared bid to implement nationwide martial law.
The major rallies in Metro Manila were at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Quezon City for the Manlaban Para sa Karapatan (Fight For Rights) protest, and a bigger rally at the Luneta Park in Manila organized by the Movement Against Tyranny.
There were two streams in line with the CHR rally – the first began at the Misa para sa Katarungan (Mass for Justice) at the UP Diliman Chapel at 2 pm, followed by the protesters' march to the CHR.
The second stream, which also started at 2 pm, began with an assembly in front of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, followed by a 4 pm Mass at the same venue. After Mass, the protesters would join others at the CHR.
The rally at the CHR coincided with the unveiling of the statue of staunch nationalist and human rights advocate Jose W. Diokno, which was attended by former president Benigno Aquino III, Vice President Leni Robredo, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, among others. (READ: Remember, prevent return of 'dark times' under Martial Law – Robredo)
The Luneta rally at the Lapu-Lapu area was expected to draw at least 40,000 people, according to organizers. The rally organizers cited malicious text messages meant to taint the protest and discourage participants, but expressed confidence that the "sabotage" ploy would not deter people from attending the rally.
Supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte and groups opposed to his policies held their respective rallies at Mendiola Park near Malacañang.