PRO- and anti-Duterte rallyists gathered in Manila to express their sentiments on various issues on Thursday, a “National Day of Protest”.
The event also coincided with the 45th anniversary of the proclamation of Martial Law by the late president Ferdinand Marcos.
In Plaza Miranda, close to 500 pro-Duterte rallyists occupied the open area fronting Quiapo Church before noon where a stage was set up.
Organizer Benny Antiporda, a board director of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, said the program would start at 2 p.m. and close to 50,000 people were expected to attend the program.
“Our protesters are composed of supporters of the President from North, South and Central Luzon, particularly members of the Kilusang Pagbabago (Change Movement), PDP-Laban Party, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Friends of Rodrigo Duterte, Luzon Watch, and various local governments,” said Antiporda.
Antiporda said martial law in Mindanao was doing well and people there were happy since peace and order has improved so much.
“Before people in Mindanao walk with guns tucked in their waists. Now, you can’t see them anymore. It’s a big change,” said Abdulrashid Ladayo, a Muslim and native of Mindanao.
Ladayo said Sept. 21 was supposed to commemorate the declaration of 1972 Martial Law, which was very different from the martial law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The Duterte martial law is not abusive. It aims to flush out the terrorists, particularly the Maute group and their minions,” he told The Manila Times.
“We are here to support the anti-drug campaign of the President. We need to save this country from drug addiction,” said Randy Sionzon, Barangay Kalalake chairman and president of vilage chiefs of Olongapo City (north of Manila) who came at Plaza Miranda together with 165 Duterte supporters in three buses.
Quiapo Police Precinct Community said 100 of their personnel were tasked to secure Plaza Miranda.
Meanwhile, anti-Duterte protesters converged along España Boulevard fronting the University of Santo Tomas (UST) at about 10 a.m. before proceeding to Mendiola or at the Chino Roces Freedom Bridge.
Other militant groups like Bayan Muna, worker and student groups occupied Mendiola early Thursday morning. They are expected to proceed to the open area in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park for the bigger rally.
“We are here to send our message to the government that we are against the phaseout of jeepneys. We are poor jeepney drivers, we can’t afford to buy new units,” Piston president George Mateo said.
Piston, whose members arrived at about 7 a.m in Mendiola, was also protesting oil deregulation.
Laban ng Masa, Sanglakas, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) also joined the rally.
“This is really an anti-Marcos, we’re also not pro-Duterte. We are pro democracy, pro-freedom, pro-human rights and social justice, we stand for socialism.” Rasti Delizo, national coordinator of Laban ng Masa, said
The group will proceed to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City and would join iDefend in a rally that will start at 2 p.m and end at 5 p.m
About 200 unarmed policemen were deployed in Mendiola to ensure peace and order.
Meanwhile, police augmentation forces are on standby at the US Embassy.
“US embassy and other diplomatic missions are ‘no rally zones’ and are non-negotiable,” PNP Chief Spokesman Dionardo Carlos.
“The PNP will be working today to assist the protesters and help ensure a safe and orderly conduct of the rallies/mass actions,” Carlos said.
Chief Supt Tomas Apolinario Jr. heads the team from the Southern Police District (SPD).
In line with PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa’s directive, police will apply “maximum tolerance” to all protesters.
“Rallyists are expected to converge at the Quirino grandstand, People Power Monument, QC Circle, Mendiola, Plaza Miranda,” Carlos said.
Carlos called on the rallyists to police their own ranks by asking them not to bring firearms, not cause public inconvenience, and not commit any crime.
Supt. Restituto Archangel said the more than 1,000 policemen, which included a SWAT team and bomb disposal unit, came from various cities in Metro Manila. He said that more were arriving.
The Manila Police District (MPD) alone deployed about 1,000 police officers in Plaza Miranda, Mendiola, and Luneta Park, according to Supt. Erwin Margarejo, MPD spokesman. RJ CARBONELL, WILLIAM DEPASUPIL, ASHLEY SAN JOSE