MANILA - Though he had publicly proclaimed admiration for former president Ferdinand Marcos, President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged that the Marcos martial law era had been a time of "gross human rights violations."
In Proclamation 319, Duterte formally made September 21 as a “National Day of Protest,” as he acknowledged there were human rights violations committed during the Marcos regime.
In the proclamation, Duterte described the Marcos-era martial law as a time “attended by the commission of gross human rights violations, arbitrary state interventions, rampant corruption, and disregard of fundamental civil liberties.”
Duterte said his administration also "recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations and all other failings of the government.”
He however warned protesters not to create chaos.
“I urge all protesters to act within the bounds of the law, maintain a peaceful conduct of rallies, marches and demonstrations, be vigilant of possible infiltrators who may instigate violence in an effort to provoke the police and other law enforcement authorities, and avoid causing any undue inconvenience to their fellow citizens,” Duterte said in his proclamation.
Despite the President’s stated intention for declaring the national day of protest, militant and opposition groups have warned of the government’s real motive.
Duterte earlier declared September 21, which marks the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, a national day of protest to allow the public exercise their right to express anger towards government abuses.
Observers, however, said any chaos during the street protests could be used by the President to declare martial law in other parts of the country.
Militant youth group Anakbayan warned the President against using the protest as a pretext for declaring martial law nationwide.
“Mr. Duterte, if you think declaring nationwide martial law will make you escape accountability for all your accumulated crimes against the Filipino people and continue your tyranny, then you are dead wrong. It is better if you just step down,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
“Mr. Duterte, we are warning you. Your current rush towards outright fascist rule and threats of using the full force of the police and military apparatus to quell dissent is only bound to fuel more resistance and hasten your downfall,” he added.
The proclamation orders police and other law enforcement authorities to observe maximum restraint and maintain distance from people’s assemblies.
It also enjoined all local government units to dispense with the permit requirements for holding public assemblies, marches and demonstrations.
Duterte earlier suspended classes in public schools and work in the executive branch and local government units.