MANILA – It was a peaceful National Day of Protest across the country.
Some 28,000 demonstrators flocked to different rally areas Thursday — but with clashing positions: one group expressed grievances against the government and one expressed strong support to the Duterte administration.
The National Day of Protest coincided with the 45th anniversary of the proclamation of Martial Law by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.
Anti-government protesters converged in Luneta, Mendiola, Welcome Rotonda and the office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at the University of the Philippines (UP) complex in Quezon City.
Among the groups are Tindig Pilipinas, Akbayan, Kababaihan para sa Katotohanan at Kalayaan, Free Leila, Manlaban para sa Karapatan, at Defend Democracy showing banners “ #NeverAgain sa Martial Law” condemning the deaths as a result of the government’s campaign against hard drugs.
Drivers also joined condemning the phase out of old public utility jeepneys.
A bronze statue of the late Senator Jose Diokno, founding chair of CHR and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), was unveiled at the entrance of the CHR compound. Diokno, a nationalist and human rights defender, was also among those incarcerated during the Martial Law years.
Peaceful protest rallies were also held in Cebu, Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo City and Davao City, among others that ended late afternoon.
On the other hand, supporters of President Rodrigo R. Duterte started arriving before noon at Plaza Miranda in buses and vans and occupied the area where a stage was set up fronting Quiapo Church. From around 1,400 at around 11 a.m., the group swelled to more than 10,000 by mid-afternoon.
Among the organizers was Benny Antiporda, board director of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), who said the pro-Duterte supporters came from the northern, central and southern part of Luzon including members of Kilusang Pagbabago (Change Movement), I am Duterte Humanitarian Group, Partido Laban Demokratiko (PDP), Friends of Rodrigo Duterte, DDS Metro Manila Federalismo, and participants from Paranaque, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Pasig, Paranaque City, Quezon City, Caloocan and Malabon, among others.
They carried banners and streamers that read: “No to Drugs,” “Yes to Federalism,” “Itigil ang Panggugulo, Magkaisa Tayo” and “Ituloy and Pagbabago.”
Antiporda said the Martial Law declared by President Duterte in Mindanao has improved the peace and order situation in the region which was quite different from the martial law declared by Marcos in 1972.
Meanwhile, SBMA chair Martin Diño said supporters joined the activity to defend the change brought by the anti-drug campaign that resulted in more peaceful communities.
Other government officials during the Plaza Miranda rally include Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello. Also present to show their support for the government were showbiz personalities Coco Martin, Katya Santos, Dennis Padilla.
Marcos loyalists also joined the peaceful protest that ended at around 8 p.m.
On Thursday afternoon, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief, Director Oscar Albayalde, estimated that around 28,000 participated in the different rallies in Metro Manila — 12,000 Duterte supporters in Plaza Miranda; about 8,000 members of multi-sectoral groups in Luneta Park, more or less 3,000 pro-Duterte demonstrators and 5,000 anti-administration protesters in Mendiola.
Earlier, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said they deployed some 1,400 personnel in the convergence areas in Metro Manila while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) assigned 100 forces to augment the PNP. (PNA)