March 22, 2018, 8:10 am
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And protest they did

THOUSANDS attended rallies yesterday, with political opponents of President Duterte warning against the emergence of a dictatorship and his supporters expressing solidarity with his administration.

Duterte declared Sept. 21 as a National Day of Protest, and said anyone could protest anything.

At the Luneta Park, the Movement Against Tyranny claimed that 20,000 persons joined the rally where activists shouted “Never Again!” in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.  

On stage, a huge television screen flashed the words “Stop the killings! Never again to tyranny and dictatorship!” in protest of extra-judicial killings.

Those who attended included former congressman Teddy Casiño, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, and Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), which is part of MAT, said Filipinos should speak out and continue to oppose martial rule.

“[I]f you don’t, you might one day just wake up (i.e., if you are lucky) that: your jolly delivery boy (if he is not yet Tokhanged) has failed to deliver your morning newspaper; there are no free TV stations, much less cable TV, except those run or approved by the State; radio only airs boring and monologous State-run programs and fake news; all mass and social media exult the bloody drug war; and your e-mail, FB, messenger, Viber, Whatsapp, Instagram, Telegram and Signal are monitored, screened or blocked,” the NUPL said.

Earlier in the day, the militant groups held a rally at the Don Chino Roces bridge and burned an effigy called “Rody’s Cube,” which had the faces of Duterte, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., Adolf Hitler and a puppy or “tuta” and had three interchangeable/movable layers.

Protesters shouted, “Never Again! Never Again to Martial Law!” as they burned the cube.

Another newly formed coalition, Laban ng Masa, joined the Mendiola rally. They chanted, “Marcos and Duterte are just the same!”

Supporters of Duterte numbering around 15,000 held a separate rally at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila. Unlimited congee was served.

Among those seen in the rally site were Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority board member Benny Antiporda.

Vice President Leni Robredo and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno joined the Tindig Pilipinas, a newly formed opposition coalition, in unveiling the statue of human rights pioneer Jose Diokno at the Commission on Human Rights compound. 

“If we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it,” Robredo said in a statement. “Sadly those who are deceived do not even know that they are walking a doomed path.”

Before the CHR event, Robredo led opposition leaders in a mass at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in  the   UP Diliman campus. 

The others who attended include former president Benigno Aquino III, former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, and Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

The participants, mostly clad in white t-shirts, offered flowers and candles as they prayed for victims of extrajudicial killings.

The church’s altar was surrounded by photos of martial law victims and young Filipinos whose deaths have been linked to Duterte’s war on drugs.

Aquino said people should not look at political color because the protests are not simply for the “dilawan” or a particular political group, but to voice out what is wrong with the government.

Hundreds of UP students, members of progressive youth groups, as well as lumad and Moro activists, gathered at the Quezon Hall in the UP Diliman campus to denounce the string of extrajudicial killings.

The lumad and Moro activists joined the bigger rally at the Luneta Park.

In Camp Aguinaldo, around 150 members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Southern Tagalog held a demonstration at the Armed Forces headquarters at around 9:30 a.m. to protest alleged human rights violations committed by soldiers.

The rallyists dispersed after an hour and went to Luneta.

The rallies caused heavy traffic in the metropolis. 

The MMDA’s Metrobase recorded heavy traffic on Commonwealth Ave., Quezon Ave., and North Ave in Quezon City, Roxas Boulevard in Pasay, and Liwasang Bonifacio and Mendiola in Manila. 

The agency said traffic became heavy at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila around noon as around 500 protesters marched to Mendiola. 

Some 50 people also held protest actions on North Ave.  

The MMDA said the Katigbak intersection was closed at 1:40 p.m. due to around 3,000 rallyists. 

The agency said around 500 people held protest action on Quezon Ave. and the Bantayog ng mga Bayani at 3:42 p.m. involving Anakbayan. 

Heavy traffic was recorded in Mendiola around 4 p.m. with around 3,000 protesters in the area. 

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, in his homily at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist in Dagupan City for the National Day of Protest, said it is unfortunate that the country has already lost all the gains brought by the heroes and martyrs of the martial law era.

“We are losing our national soul to the Father of Lies and Prince of Darkness. They are killing the poor and poisoning our consciences,” said Villegas, referring to Duterte.

“Killing the poor and the poorest is the only solution they know to stop crime. Fake news abound and liars succeed to mislead and confuse. Decency has given way to cuss words,” he said.

“The respectful and the polite are ridiculed and the rude and ill-mannered are the new saints. Human rights and the indigenous peoples are worth one thousand pesos,” he added.

Such scenes, Villegas pointed, are almost similar to what transpired 45 years ago when martial law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

Villegas appealed to the Filipino faithful to do their part in bringing back the “national soul.”

The archbishop said the people must not be afraid to earn the ire of the government since it is just the people holding on to Duterte’s campaign promise of change.

Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, in his homily at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, appealed:  “Stop the killing and start the healing.”

He appealed to authorities to give those who committed wrongdoings the chance to be reformed.

On Saturday, Catholics faithful are being called to start the 40-day actions aimed at remembering all those killed in the ongoing war against illegal drugs.

From September 23 until November 1, Catholics are urged to offer prayers, particularly for those killed in the government’s campaign against drugs, as well as for the victims of violence and the war in Marawi.

Catholic bishops also appealed for the pealing of church bells at 8 p.m. and for the lighting of candles in front of homes, in cemeteries, in public places, and in the spots where the victims have been felled and have lost their lives. – With Angela Lopez de Leon, Victor Reyes, Gerard Naval, Christian Oineza, Evan Orias, Raymond Africa, and Reuters

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