March 18, 2018, 10:11 am
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Let them protest: Duterte

FOR the first time, the country will observe today, Sept. 21, as a “National Day of Protest,” with President Duterte reminding authorities to dispense with the permits and keep their distance as people let off steam.

Duterte has suspended classes in public schools and state universities and college, as well as work in the executive branch of the government. He said the other branches of government and the private sector have the discretion to announce their own work suspensions.

The judiciary suspended work but both chambers of Congress did not.

Lutgardo Barbo, Senate secretary, said the Senate has “urgent and important work,” specifically committee hearings. 

The labor department said wages for the day will be computed based on regular work day rates.

Proclamation 319, signed by President Duterte on Sept. 19, said the National Day of Protest gives the people a chance to air their “call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government” and their “desire to uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency, and accountability in government.”

The observance coincides with the  45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by   President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. who, Duterte said, was remembered by many for the “gross human rights violations, arbitrary state intervention, rampant corruption, and disregard if fundamental civil liberties.”

The President said the administration recognizes the public’s fears and indignation against a possible repetition and perpetuation of human rights abuses and other shortcomings of the former administration.

Duterte said on Tuesday night that he wants to join the mass actions, particularly against the “yellow” officials in government whom he cannot remove due to fixed terms of office. 

He reminded to the public to follow the law. 

The President ordered authorities to maintain peace and order and be vigilant against infiltrators who may instigate violence. 

He directed the police to observe maximum restraint and distance, and allow the protesters to exercise their constitutional rights.

He also ordered local government units to dispense with the permit requirements for holding public assemblies, marches, and demonstrations.

A Palace memorandum circular directed select agencies like the health and social welfare departments, Bureau of Fire and Protection, and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to provide stand-by emergency assistance centers near the protest sites.

It added that government employees who would be asked to report for work on September 21 shall be remunerated through compensatory time-off for hours of work rendered, per Civil Service Commission (CSC) rules and regulations.

In Davao City, Mayor   Sara Duterte ordered the cancellation of classes in all levels in private schools in the city “because of the security and safety concerns brought by the expected protest actions tomorrow and the inconvenience and delays it may cause to the travel of the students and the general public.”

PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa ordered his men to be on the lookout for instigators who want to start trouble.

Dela Rosa cited the rally in Kidapawan City, where three persons were killed and several others were hurt when authorities dispersed the road blockade set up by farmers and workers to demand the distribution of rice among them.

He said members of the New People’s Army join protest actions.

“We don’t what a repeat of what had happened in Kidapawan where they instigated our troops, then shots were fired. That’s what we have to look out for.” he added.

Dela Rosa said the PNP is validating intelligence reports that unidentified people hired six boats to be used to transport protesters to Manila from the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

He said this is a desperate move which shows that rally organizers have lost support from people from Luzon.

“We are expecting that because they are finding it hard to recruit protesters here in Luzon. So they recruit natives from Mindanao who they can easily fool,” he added.

Metro Manila police chief Director Oscar Albayalde said at least 1,300 policemen will be deployed in Manila where mass actions will be held. He said 600 civil disturbance management unit personnel will be assigned in Luneta, 400 in the US Embassy along Roxas boulevard, 50 each in the gates of Malacañan Palace, 100 in Mendiola, and another 100 as augmentation force from the Armed Forces.

He said the police expect around 10,000 people to converge in Luneta.

Albayalde also ordered his men to strictly monitor the movements of the pros and antis who will troop to Chino Roces bridge, which has been occupied by members of the urban poor Kadamay since Wednesday morning.

To prevent hostilities, he said intelligence personnel will be monitoring the protesters’ ranks, while armed Special Weapons and Tactics men will be monitoring the mass actions on top of high-rise buildings.

He said front-liners will not be armed.

He said the protesters will meet in two places in Quezon City – the University of the Philippines and Quezon Memorial Circle – and will march towards Liwasang Bonifacio before heading for Luneta.

He said a number of relieved Caloocan City policemen will be deployed for today’s activities.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said the military’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region is on standby for deployment on the request of the PNP.

Arevalo said soldiers will remain in the camp as much as possible, based on the instruction of President Duterte.

Col. Vic Tomas, deputy commander of the military’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region, said over 1,000 soldiers have been put on standby to respond to any contingency during today’s protests.

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla asked the protesters “to make sure that they do not unduly impede traffic, ensure they do not destroy public and private property and respect those who do not wish to participate.”

Environmental advocates yesterday launched a coalition that called for an end to extrajudicial killings and the supposed disrespect for human rights and rule of law of the Duterte administration.

The coalition, called the Environmental Advocates against Repression and Tyranny in defense of Human Rights (EARTH), is composed of 16 organizations and 23 individual environmental advocates from various parts of the country. 

Members of the EARTH coalition will join the rally at Rizal Park in Manila.

Clemente Bautista, co-convener of EARTH and national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), said it was alarming that in less than two years of the Duterte administration, there were already 23 environmental advocates who have been killed.
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