Thousands of Filipino rallyists, composed of indigenous people, students, activists, clergy, businessmen, and politicians took to the streets on Thursday to protest against the controversial, but hugely popular, President of the Philippines — Rodrigo Duterte.
The event, which marked the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by Philippine’s late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, saw citizens participating in a host of activities that warned of another emerging dictatorship under the Duterte administration, Reuters reported.
Participants converged in Luneta Park and Mendiola and marched en masse through the streets of Manila, chanting and carrying signs that bore sentiments such as, “Never Again To Martial Law” and “Stop The Killings”, a dissent against the government’s current war on drugs that has killed thousands.
Duterte has, on occasions, threatened to declare military rule nationwide. Many have expressed fear that this will not be different to what Marcos imposed back from 1972- 1981, which is remembered by Filipinos as a brutal and oppressive era.
During that period, various democratic institutions in the government were abolished and thousands of his Marcos’ political opponents and student activists were allegedly jailed, tortured, or killed without due process.
After a long march attended by the various groups, reenactments of drug-related killings and burnings of effigies in Duterte’s likeness were conducted by activists.
Among those who participated in the protest was Senator Risa Hontiveros, a vocal critic of Duterte’s policies. She warned that the democracy in the country is under threat by a “Dutertatorship” with the government’s “policy of killing”.
Current Vice President Leni Robredo also joined the event, stating that Filipinos should recognize signs of “rising tyranny”.
“It’s sad that we seemed to have not learned our lessons,” Robredo was quoted as saying. “There’s a culture of violence around us.”
Duterte, who won last year’s election by a huge popular vote, has maintained high approval ratings despite his many vocal critics.
To show their support for Duterte, thousands of his followers joined an organized counter-rally held on the same day where the participants enjoyed free food, live music, and dancing.