Amidst the criticisms on his government and presidency, President Rodrigo Duterte is open to dialogue with groups that joined the mass protests on September 21, according to Malacañang.
“The President is the leader of all Filipinos,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said. “We have always kept the doors open for constructive dialogue with the strategic sectors of society, including those who do not share the stance of the Administration on certain issues.”
Proclaimed by the President as National Protest Day, coinciding with the 45th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law in the country, thousands of Filipinos from various sectors expressed their objection and criticism of the Duterte administration the very same day.
The Anti-Duterte protesters cried ‘never again’ condemning Duterte’s ‘dictatorial tendencies,’ the martial law declaration in Mindanao, and his ‘support’ for the late dictator. They also asked for justice on the drug-related killings of the President’s war on drugs, human rights violations, and disrespect of law.
The said groups included the youth, faculty and school administrators, members of different religious groups, and leftists.
Duterte allowed the former president Marcos’ remains to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani last year, which sparked outrage from martial law victims and human rights advocates, though he defended that he is allowing it considering Marcos as a war veteran, lawmaker, and former president, not as a dictator.
The President has been criticized over his war on drugs, but he has repeatedly stood firm, even during his election campaign, that the country’s drug problem must end as it caused other forms of crime such as rape and murder. He also reiterated that several government officials are continuously in power because of their drug affiliation.
In spite of praising and defending the policemen’s operations, he has also vowed to punish those who abuse their authority and positions by engaging in criminal acts.
While it was a national day of protest, Duterte’s supporters also joined the rally to defend the President’s administration.