MANILA - Malacanang is downplaying a rally that gathered thousands of signatures for the People's Initiative against all forms of discretionary funds in the national budget.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the protest failed to muster a large number of participants because there are still many people who support the leadership of President Aquino.
Organizers earlier said almost 20,000 people joined the rally but observers said the crowd was much smaller, with police putting it at about 5,000 at its peak.
Coloma said the low turnout is not a matter of victory for the administration.
"Sa aming palagay ay nauunawaan ng mga Pilipino ang ginagawa ng administrasyon. Kinikilala nila ang pagsisikap ng Pangulo na magtatag ng mabuting pamamahala na nakabatay sa matuwid na daan," he said.
In his speech delivered at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Monday during the celebration of National Heroes Day, which coincided with the protest in Luneta, President Aquino warned the public not to be swayed by people whom he said are acting as advocates of reform but are not.
Coloma explained that the President was not referring to any specific personality, but to the public in general.
"Wala naman pong binanggit na pangalan. Kaya ito ay pangkalahatang panawagan para mag-isip ang ating mga mamamayan. Gamitin nila 'yung kanilang discernment at pagpapasya. Piliin nila kung ano 'yung sa akala nila ay totoo sa hindi totoo. Iyan ang isa sa mga mahalagang aspeto ng demokrasya, iyong karapatan at kalayaan ng mga mamamayan na mamili ng kanilang daang gustong tahakin sa pamamagitan ng paggamit ng katwiran," the spokesman said.
He added Malacanang is glad that the protest was peaceful and orderly.
He also said Aquino continues to listen to the voices of his "bosses."
"Kasama naman sa dynamics ng ating demokrasya na habang nagtatrabaho ang pamahalaan, merong mga gumagawa ng kuru-kuro, merong mga nag-uusap tungkol sa ibang mga isyu. Siguro naman ay nais pa rin nating magpatuloy ang ganyang kasiglahan ng ating demokrasya,” Coloma said.