THE National Day of Protest is a “healthy exercise of democracy,” Malacañang said on Thursday, as various groups rallied against President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, alleged extrajudicial killings, and military rule in Mindanao.
“Today, September 21, the nation observes its first National Day of Protest, when people from all walks of life and persuasion can freely hold marches, demonstrations, public assemblies, and all forms of mass action to express their grievances against perceived or actual excesses and/or shortcomings of the government,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“This is also an opportune time for those in the government to hear the voice of the governed as part of our efforts to uphold the highest standards of good governance. The event is a healthy exercise in democracy,” he said.
But while Malacañang welcomed today’s activities as an exercise of democracy, Abella reminded the public to maintain peace and order during the mass protests and assured them that law enforcers would observe maximum tolerance.
“We ask those who would join in today’s activities – supporters and critics alike – to maintain peaceful conduct and avoid causing any undue inconvenience,” he said.
“Police will observe maximum restraint and maintain distance from mass action,” the Palace official added.
On Tuesday, President Duterte signed Proclamation 319, declaring Sept. 21 a National Day of Protest.
Duterte said the proclamation was “in solidarity with the people’s call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government and with the people’s desire to uphold the highest standards of integrity, efficiency and accountability in government.”
The President also called on protesters “to act within the bounds of law, maintain a peaceful conduct of rallies, marches and demonstrations, be vigilant of possible infiltrators who may instigate violence in an effort to provoke the police and other law enforcement authorities and avoid causing any undue inconvenience to their fellow citizens.”
The declaration coincides with the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.
Duterte, in his proclamation, said he acknowledged the public’s fears of possible “repetition and perpetuation” of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
“The martial law era that began with the promulgation of Proclamation No. 1081 (s. 1972) has imprinted itself in the collective memory of the people as a time attended by the commission of gross human rights violations, arbitrary state interventions, rampant corruption, and disregard of fundamental civil liberties,” the President said.
“This administration recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations and all other failings of the government,” he said.
On Wednesday, Malacañang also issued Memorandum Circular suspending “work in government offices, both national and local, and classes in public schools at all levels, including state universities and colleges,” in view of Proclamation 319.
The memorandum circular also provided that the suspension of work in private companies and classes in private schools in affected areas was “left to the sound discretion of their respective heads.” CATHERINE S. VALENTE