• Palace suspends classes, govt work in ‘Day of Protest’

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    MALACAÑANG ON Tuesday announced that there would be no classes and government work on Thursday, September 21, which the President has declared a “National Day of Protest.”

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    Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella quickly clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a National Day of Protest was not meant to divert public attention from the commemoration of the 45th anniversary of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law.

    IT BEGINS Members of various groups attempt to break through a barricade set up by policemen near the Department of Justice building in Manila. The groups held a rally to protest the killing of drug suspects. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    The Movement Against Tyranny, a multisectoral group, is planning to hold a rally on September 21 at Rizal Park.
    In a chance interview, Abella said Duterte merely wanted to encourage groups and individuals to use the day to protest against the government.

    “It’s a public exercise of your rights. I mean, the President understands that some people want to vent and I suppose, he also assumes that most people want to vent on something. It’s a National Venting Day. No, it’s a National Day of Protest,” Abella told reporters.

    Duterte has even quipped that he would join the protest to complain of the “low salary” of those in the government, including him as the head of the Executive branch.

    As a result of the suspension of classes and government work, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has decided to postpone the scheduled nationwide simultaneous earthquake drill on September 21.

    It was NDRRMC Chairman and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana who made the decision to move the Third Quarter earthquake drill, said NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan.

    ‘Right of the people’

    Lawmakers on Tuesday said they saw nothing concerning about the planned protest on September 21, saying such action was part of the people’s constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly.

    Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd however reminded those who would be joining the protest action to also respect the rights of people who may have different views.

    Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said the scheduled protest actions on Thursday didn’t mean that support for President Duterte had started to dwindle.

    “His ratings remain high. Rallies are normal,” Sotto said.

    Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito would rather wait and see how the events would unfold on Thursday.
    It’s difficult to determine people’s support for the President just by looking at rallies, he said.

    “Depends if the organizers will be able to gather a big crowd,” he said.

    Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said the rally could become the beginning of a broad opposition to Duterte.

    But Casiple did not consider it a threat to the government.

    He said the rally would be composed mostly of the political opposition, middle class, human rights advocates and the Church.

    “However, this is not on the level of a threat to existence of the state, but a right guaranteed by the Constitution,” Casiple said.

    with DEMPSEY REYES AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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