MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is considering declaring September 21 a holiday in anticipation of threats of massive protests to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
At a briefing in Malacañang on Friday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Duterte, at a meeting early this week, said if the rallies inconvenience the public, he might as well declare a work suspension in Metro Manila.
“Sinabi niya na pagka magkaroon ng massive rally sa Metro Manila and it might inconvenience the public ‘para hindi ma-inconvenience, hindi ko na lang sila papasukin. I will declare wala na papasok sa mga opisina (He said if there will be massive rallies in Metro Manila and it might inconvenience the public, ‘to avoid this, I will not let them report for work. I will declare work suspensions in offices)’,” Lorenzana said.
Earlier, Duterte, who started his term in good terms with the left but has lately shown more belligerence towards them and called off peace talks with communist rebels, also threatened to place the whole country under martial law, which currently covers only Mindanao, should the rebels sow violence in urban centers.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which is spearheading leftist protests on September 21, said mass actions “are more than justified given our current worsening human rights situation and drift towards dictatorship” and as a means to ensure that martial law is not imposed nationwide again.
“The protests are also well within our constitutionally guaranteed rights,” Reyes added.
At the same time, he accused Duterte of using the rallies as a pretext to make good his threat of nationwide martial law, stressing that, “as in the past, we do not anticipate any untoward incidents emanating from protesters.”
“Why is the Palace so insecure about people protesting the abuses of the regime?” he asked, adding, “We urge everyone to remain vigilant and thwart the desperate moves of the Duterte regime to sabotage or derail the nationwide protests.”