MORE than a thousand rallyists, mostly students, flocked to Rizal Park in Manila on Friday to condemn the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
Despite continuous rains, students from the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University, among others, marched for the “Black Friday” protest.
Supporters of Duterte also held their own rally in front of the Rizal monument, and called on Cabinet members against the Marcos burial to resign.
Anti-Marcos protesters insisted that while most of them were not yet born during the time of the late strongman, they were aware of the atrocities of Martial law.
“We are protesting not just to express great disapproval of the hero’s burial bestowed on the dictator, but to protect the dignity and struggle of the Filipino people. The youth brought the battle out to the streets to hinder the government’s effort to revise history by giving honors to a human rights violator, a plunderer and a fascist dictator,” said Kevin Castro of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
Renato Reyes, spokesman of the militant group Bayan, said that while they were still hoping that the Supreme Court would reverse its November 8 ruling allowing the Marcos burial, they were looking at other options.
“The fight is really on the streets, classrooms and public consciousness, and we want to focus on these options,” he added.
Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Neri Colmenares also vowed to continue protesting. “We defeated Marcos not in courts, not in Congress but in the streets and now that they defeated us in court we will again take the fight to the streets,” Colmenares said.
At 6:30 p.m., police estimated the Rizal Park crowd at 1,500. But organizers of the multi-sector rally claimed that about 15,000 people joined the event.
Anti-Marcos figures like former senators Wigberto Tanada and Rene Saguisag attended the anti-Marcos rally.
‘Diving the nation’
On Friday, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the burial of Marcos had only divided the nation.
But people should give credit to the President for allowing public demonstrations without the need for government permits.
“One aspect in the handling of the issue that deserves the gratitude of the people is that President Duterte is the only president in history who encourages people to show their sentiments in public demonstrations without need for a government permit,” Pimentel told The Manila Times.
Meanwhile, a group called Duterte youth also staged its own protest against the President’s critics.
“We think that President Marcos should have been buried a long time ago at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and
that Filipinos should all support the decision of the president,” said Ronald Cardema, chairman of the “Duterte Youth” group.
He also hit the “leftist” members of the Duterte Cabinet who had refused to resign despite their opposition to the President’s decision.
The group specifically mentioned Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who has been critical of the Marcos interment.