Duterte eyes no work, school during Sept 21 protest rallies


Defense chief: Martial law an option if Reds attack
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is planning to suspend classes and government work on September 21 to give protesters a “free hand” in commemorating the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

“This early, I am announcing that I am ordering a holiday so that nobody will get hurt amid these demonstrations,” Duterte said in a radio interview with Erwin Tulfo yesterday.

“Government employees need not report for work that day. They (protesters) can occupy all the public spaces available,” said Duterte who also warned communist insurgents that he would not hesitate to make a similar proclamation if they would take their rebellion to the streets.

In a separate news conference, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed the President’s plan for September 21.

“During my interaction with him (President) this week, he said that in the event of a massive rally in Metro Manila that would inconvenience the public, he won’t require people to go to work. There would be suspension of government work,” Lorenzana said.

“He just wants the protesters to have a free hand. He did not say what day; maybe it is the 21st, but he will play it by ear,” Lorenzana added.

Martial law ‘remote’
At the same time, Lorenzana allayed public fears that the President may declare martial law if the communist rebellion got out of hand.

“The President has said it before. If the Left will try to have a massive protest, burn things on the streets, disrupt the country, then he might [declare martial law]. But as to my estimates, it is a very remote possibility,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana belittled the Left’s capability to conduct “massive demonstrations across the country that would be disrupting the civil government or the lives of the people.”

“I don’t think that is going to happen,” Lorenzana said.

Peace negotiations between the Duterte administration and the communists had hit another roadblock after their armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), staged a series of attacks against government troops in the provinces despite an agreed ceasefire.

The failure of Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo, Left-leaning Cabinet members, to get confirmed as secretaries of agrarian reform and social welfare, was perceived by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as a retaliatory act by the Duterte administration for the stalled talks.

The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives has announced its breakaway from the majority following the Mariano-Taguiwalo debacle.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23 to suppress a rebellion from the Maute group, which was seeking to establish an independent state with Islamist leader Isnilon Hapilon as its caliph.

Congress extended the proclamation until yearend.

On Sept. 21, 1972, then president Marcos declared martial law because of the alleged communist threat.

Based on government records, about 70,000 were either victims of torture, extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances.

Marcos lifted martial law on Jan. 17, 1981.


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