MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans to declare martial law nationwide amid concerns that the chief executive may use today’s national day of protest as a pretext to place the entire country under martial rule 45 years since the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos' declaration.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President declared Thursday as a national day of protest to allow the people to express their grievances as part of their constitutional rights.
“Again and again, hindi iyan ang patutunguhan natin,” Abella said in a television interview.
“Ang sinabi niya, he’s allowing the protest, huwag lang malaglag sa violence and destruction of property, in which case the response will be firm. Pero kung sinasabi na pinagpaplano ang martial law, hindi po,” he said.
Protests are set around Metro Manila Thursday on the 45th anniversary of Marcos' declaration of a nationwide military rule, a regime that saw killings, rights abuses and plunder of state coffers.
Militants, civil society organizations, the political opposition and other groups are expected to mount mass actions in Quezon City and Manila to call for "responsible" governance and respect for human rights under the Duterte administration.
In his proclamation declaring today as a national day of protest, Duterte, a known friend of the Marcoses, said he acknowledged human rights violations committed during the Marcos regime.
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.”
He 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.”
It was a rare acknowledgment of abuses under the rule of Marcos, for whom Duterte's father Vicente had served as a cabinet member. Last year, Duterte allowed Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite resounding protests.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had earlier said Duterte's declaration of a nationwide martial law was "very remote." The President has a standing declaration of military rule over Mindanao amid the crisis in Marawi City, which will remain in effect until the end of the year.
PROTESTS A HEALTHY EXERCISE
In a separate statement, Abella said allowing Thursday's protest actions is a “healthy exercise [of] democracy.”
“This is also an opportune time for those in government to hear the voice of the governed as part of our efforts to uphold the highest standards of good governance,” Abella said in statement.
“We ask those who would join in today’s activities – supporters and critics alike – to maintain peaceful conduct and avoid causing any undue inconvenience,” he added.
While the President has ordered authorities to allow the protests, a group has accused the administration of suppression.
Anti-Duterte group Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) said the Luneta administration only allowed them to hold a rally at the Lapu-Lapu Monument, which “is not large enough to safely accommodate the tens of thousands expected to join the Sept. 21 protests.”
MAT said the Luneta administration instead assigned the Burnham Green, which can accommodate a crowd of 100,000, to the Lions Club for an event that has only 2,000 participants.
Abella said he was unaware of such reports but noted that people must look at the bigger picture – Duterte allowed nationwide protests today.
“Ang Presidente ay very open, contrary to what is being spread,” Abella said in the interview.
“It is not a question of [a] one-man rule. The President is firm. On the other hand, he allows discourse. He is quite inclusive.”