MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of activists failed to reach Mendiola to protest against the planned declaration of a revolutionary government under President Rodrigo Duterte, calling it a "return of the Martial Law period."
On the 154th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio on Thursday, November 30, leftist groups staged a protest at Liwasang Bonifacio in the City of Manila against the "creeping one-man rule" of Duterte. They were set to march to Mendiola and burn an effigy of the President there. (READ: 'Bonifacio turning in his grave' over Duterte's revolutionary gov't)
Around 2,500 protesters joined the march to Mendiola, according to police estimates.
However, they were blocked by riot police along Recto Avenue to prevent them approaching the area where the President's supporters calling for a revolutionary government (RevGov) had set up their own rally at the historic peace arch. (READ: Supporters 'grant' Duterte sole powers to write new Constitution)
As protesters tried to push their way to Mendiola, riot police used water cannons in an attempt to stop them – which led to a quick standoff between the groups.
Failing to reach Mendiola, the group burned the effigy along Recto Avenue instead. The effigy depicts Duterte as a dog of the United States with the face of a snake.
Anakbayan chaiperson Vencer Crisostomo said it was Duterte's fault that the youth were taking to the streets to voice their concerns. The President's dictatorial tendencies and subservience to the United States had pushed young people to even join rebel groups, he said. (READ: 15 communist rebels killed in Batangas clashes)
Duterte's former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo attended the anti-dictatorship rally and said a RevGov is "not the answer" to speed up reforms in the country.
The groups denounced the administrration's "crackdown" on the Leftist movement, after Duterte ended peace talks with communists and tagged them as terrorists. Taguiwalo said they are not the enemies of the state.
In an act, comedian Mae "Juana Change" Paner, clad in a police officer uniform, delivered a satirical speech. Her name plate read "Verdugo" (Executioner).
"Lalaban kayo? Pupunta kayong Mendiola? Basta ako, mabuhay ang berdugong Presidente!"Paner said, alluding to the alleged human rights violations under the Duterte government. (Will you fight? Will you go to Mendiola? As for me, long live the executioner President!)
Duterte has been flip-flopping on whether he would declare a revolutionary government. During the presidential election campaigns in 2016, he said he would close down Congress and declare a revolutionary government if legislators would block the pork-less budget.
Last October, Duterte again threatened he would declare a revolutionary government if he sensed a destabilization plot against him. On November 21, he pulled back on his threats, saying the country would "not get anything out of it." (READ: Duterte says he won't declare revolutionary gov't)
Supporters of a revolutionary government said the setup would immediately address the country's problems.
However, experts said that granting Duterte emergency powers under the current Constitution would suffice, as many have expressed fears of the return of authoritarian rule. –Rappler.com